Being guilty of a crime is not something you would want to aim for when living your life. You would spend a long time behind bars, with low-class food and chicken soup that your palette would refuse immediately. There should only be one prison experience that people need to check out: Alcotraz, The Prison Cocktail Bar.
This theatrical and immersive experience offers you the chance to become a part of a liquor smuggling empire as a bootlegger. It has a 1930s American prison setting, where you find yourself on a mission to smuggle in a bottle of alcohol of your choosing. This is made simple thanks to the crooked guards who have agreed to help with the smuggling.
Having been arrested, the personal belongings of prisoners are dropped off so that nothing further can be smuggled in. The prison guard then gives a briefing and assigns prisoners to their correctly sized prison jumpsuits and cells, where constant servings of chicken soup are served. Or are they? It could secretly be cocktails using the bottle of spirit slyly smuggled into the prison. It is, after all, the 1930s, when smuggling crimes were at an all-time high.
After settling in, there is time for prisoners to knock back their first cup of 'chicken soup'. A prison card is also issued to the prisoners for them to fill in the details of their physical conditions and what they wish for their last meal to be.
Settling into my prison cell ready to meet the Warden
The prison guards then fall in on command of the warden, looking alert and ready to unleash their wrath on all prisoners. The warden emerges and makes himself known to all prisoners in an intimidating manner. He immediately expresses his power above all in the prison. He is a ferocious Texan man, or at least that's the accent he is trying his hardest to put on. He is dressed in a three-piece suit with black polished shoes and has long black hair which has been neatly tied up.
He lays down the rules of the prison before strolling off to attend to other duties. He then leaves all quenched prisoners to continue consuming their 'chicken soup' cocktails.
The Warden introducing himself in a somewhat menacing manner
The shenanigans in this prison continue until the warden re-emerges to dig at the pictures on the prison cards filled out by all prisoners. Some of these digs are brutal and make the prisoners question if their drawing skills need to go back to the drawing board itself. The warden then excuses those who have gone through this thorough picture interrogation.
It then becomes apparent that the warden has taken an interest in one of the prisoners, who appears to be a part of the act. She is making a mockery of the warden, but the Warden himself doesn't seem to recognise this. She then calms down and allows the warden to finish his piece before removing himself from view.
Each cell takes turns to head off with the same prisoner to carry out some 'duties'. This mainly consists of conspiring to action a prison break while gulping a shot of moonshine as we speak. The prisoner encourages all prisoners to keep the plans of this prison break under wraps for the time being and return to our cells acting like nothing has happened.
There is also an area for prisoners to have their best mugshots taken while holding up their placards. There are also two prison telephones that come with an opportunity for prisoners to pretend to communicate with the outside world. This is the amount of fun that can be had before the final acts from the officers and warden.
Holding up a placard to represent my time in Alcotraz
On the Warden's return, the cops line up again in an orderly fashion. They then surprise everyone in the room with the fact that they are looking to oust the warden for his evilness and selfishness. The power that this warden once held is sucked out of him, encouraging all prisoners to put the prison break into action. This marks the end of the whole experience and the chance to take further pictures with each other, the officers, and the warden themselves.
All belongings are then collected upon the prisoners' release from Alcotraz. With the doors flying open for these prisoners, it makes them feel good to breathe god's good air again after being locked inside for what feels like an eternity.
And with that, the feeling of being in the 1930s immediately fades away as the prisoners return to the present day. Time travelling and cocktails do not usually coincide, but this experience is one of the rare times when they matrimonially come together.
The Travelling Foodie’s Facts and Figures
The Alcotraz experience can be located in select areas of the UK. The one I visited is based in Brighton; however, other cities include Liverpool, London, and Manchester.
Tickets for this experience start from £33.39 per person.