Only 6 months after a devastating explosion ravaged the city of Beirut on August 4th 2020, Jad Ballout and his team have rebuilt their dreams as Dead End Paradise – a hedonistic tiki-inspired bar “that may not exist tomorrow”.
Located just 500 metres from the explosion site, in a dead-end alley, is a brand new watering hole by the team behind Electric Bing Sutt. As was the case with most of the city which was in shambles after the explosion, the EBS family had their bar razed to the ground, with little or nothing left to rebuild from. With no government support on offer to mitigate losses for the locals, Jad and his partners wasted no time in raising funds to help them rebuild. Needless to say the global bar community showed up and within weeks, Jad and his partners Xin Lin and Andre Gerges were well on their way to cracking on with the blueprint for a brand new dream just metres away from EBS.
In a narrow dead-end alley in the lane parallel to the erstwhile EBS, Jad, Xin, and Andre found the perfect place for their new labour of love. Symbolic in more ways than one, the location denotes Lebanon’s socio-political state of affairs and a sense of despair. The decision to build a bar at the dead-end is meant to encapsulate the idea of living each day to its fullest, and like “it’s your last”. Admittedly, the idea is equal parts tragic and beautiful. The Dead End Paradise team have taken their experience of living with uncertainty in Beirut and given it their own hedonistic spin – building a bar that encourages one to indulge in life’s pleasures, enjoying each moment like it’s your last, and never looking back.
Dead End Paradise is designed to be a playground for a frivolous rendezvous over great drinks and food, complete with easy seating, a hammock, a casual amphitheatre style set up, all made with locally available materials. A key highlight of the bar is the outdoor scaffolding structure that is intentionally set up to be incorporated as a design element. Since most of Beirut is still under repair and re-construction, the scaffolding is meant to communicate “work in progress” – an idea that they embrace as a constant reminder of hope, rebuilding from scratch, and the fact that the journey to keep moving is always a work in progress.
There is a playful use of colour and fluorescent lighting to showcase an immersive experience space and offset the industrial elements, drawing inspiration from the light and space art pieces by American artist James Turrell.
Positioned as an Asian-Middle Eastern, Tiki-inspired bar, the drinks and food carry the innovative DNA of Electric Bing Sutt with an added element of fun. House-made Akvavit and gins make appearances as do EBS crowd favourites.
The menu is divided into two sections: Dead End and Paradise.
Dead End showcases experimental and whimsical drinks that play with a host of flavours ranging from umami to smoke. The drinks in this section make a bold statement. You will find drinks like Burnt Ashes Lebanese Sling (described as “phoenix rises from the ashes, so do the lebanese people”) which uses burnt ashes gin, pineapple, dead end fassionola, lebanese cherry stem, vermouth, italian bitter, lemon and is clarified with milk and Damage Done Zombie (described as “partying in the post apocalypse never felt better!”) that employs dead end tom yum cachaça, grapefruit, pomegranate molasses, lime, passion fruit, absinthe. Using bold flavours in unexpected ways is what this section of the menu is focussed on.
The Paradise section of the menu takes a slightly less avant garde stance, dabbling more in twists on familiar drinks as well as crowd-pleasers from Electric Bing Sutt like theTutti Frutti Ayy Ayy (described as “a lebanese childhood treat that brings you back to the serene days”) that uses paradise chocolate mint distillate, hibiscus, seasonal fassionola, and white wine.
The food is reminiscent of asian street food and comfort – from a Hanoi Highway Pork Hotdog Banh Mi to Bui Vien Street Grilled Pork Cóm Tãm, this team will ensure you never go hungry in paradise.
Only weeks from opening its doors to the community in Beirut, Jad and his team know the journey ahead is an uphill climb. With the Lebanese pound at its lowest valuation ever (1500 to an American dollar), and rampant unemployment, profits are expected to be at an all time low as the rate of inflation continues to be disproportionately high. To put things in perspective, a drink that sold at $12 at EBS will now have to be sold at $3.5 to keep up with the rapidly reducing availability of disposable income. This also means that imports have become almost unaffordable, forcing the team to look for creative solutions to substitute amaros and modifiers with extensive R&D.
The escalating overheads mean returns on any investment are a long way from reality, naturally deterring foreign (and local) investors from investing to help rebuild the collapsed economy. Thanks to the fundraiser set up for rebuilding EBS, Jad, Xin and Andres didn’t have to look very far for investment for Dead End Paradise – with money in the bank and no investors to try to convince, the team can now focus on creating green shoots and contributing towards an economy which is barely limping back to life. The crippling socio-economic and political atmosphere in Lebanon has left most of its able-bodied generation in the throes of unemployment and efforts to rebuild are not only brave, but also necessary to sustain the local population.
While flying to Lebanon is currently not an option for most of us, we implore you to put Beirut on your list when things are better. Go there for the warm people, the majestic coastline, the mighty mountains, the lush wine, the dreamy food, but above all – go there to see what it’s like to live life like there is no tomorrow.
And what better way to kick off your itinerary than with a drink or two at Dead End Paradise- a bar that defines resilience and defies tragedy.
Show the Dead End Paradise family some love on Instagram.
About the author:
Priyanka Blah is the founder and editor of The Dram Attic. She has spent the last decade discovering the world of bars through extensive travel, and has been chronicling the evolution of the drinks industry from both sides of the bar, paying particular attention to guest experience, menu innovations, and creativity.
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