Original article from Kent Live
The quirky bars turn a laidback evening out with friends into a magical experience and their unique combination has attracted visitors from all over the world.
Houdini's Magic Bars were founded by award-winning magician Sam Watson and his partner, Claudette, back in 2016 with their first outlet opening on the Broadstairs High Street.
As if by magic, come 2018 the businesses had boomed and another Houdini's popped up in the Canterbury city centre.
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Now, after a tumultuous 18 months that even Houdini himself couldn't have predicted, the bars are thriving again and celebrating five years of business.
How Houdini's works
Guests at Houdini's are sat at tables and order drinks, whether that be the usual offerings or one of the bar's special cocktails which change each month – at the moment there's a fish and chip themed shot that comes wrapped in chippy paper to honour the summer of the staycation.
Once seated with drink in hand, one of the 20 Houdini magicians passes by to perform.
KentLive speaks to Sam about what makes the bars so, well, magical.
He said: "It's such a unique concept, that's why our guests love it.
"The magicians chop and change, different nights there's a different magician from mind-reading and mentalism to comedy magic or close-up street magic.
"The magician hops around the tables and three times a night we have bigger shows where the camera and spotlight go on."
Houdini's also offers cocktail and magic masterclasses for those wanting something more hands on.
Sam said: "If you come to a cocktail masterclass your party gets the venue to yourself and you get a magician to yourself and learn to craft a cocktail the Houdini way.
"It's all about fun and the experience, we're not about smelling the notes of the gin or anything!
"Then we have our magic masterclass where people can learn tricks and battle against each other."
How Houdini's battled through the pandemic
Just like many other businesses in the hospitality industry, the pandemic was testing for Sam and Houdini's team.
He said: "It's been really hard. When we were told by the government that bars could reopen last summer, the condition was we couldn't have any live entertainment.
"We didn't want to open with no magic, that just wouldn't be Houdini's. People come to Houdini's for the drinks, atmosphere and magic and you can't come and not see magic. We were closed for the whole year and it was really hard.
"What kept us going was that our guests were ready and waiting and asking when we were going to open again. It spurred us on."
Normally, those guests come from in and around Kent but, every now and again, they come from much further afield.
Houdini's has earned a reputation in the magic community and Sam admits that visitors have come specifically from Singapore, Australia and the USA over the years.
Regulars and big fans are offered the chance to pose in front of a polaroid camera and have their picture immortalised on the Houdini's wall.
Celebrating 5 years
The decor of Houdini's is part of the experience too, Sam emphasises, with both the Canterbury and Broadstairs bars sharing the same atmosphere.
To celebrate their five years there's a new arrival coming too.
The Postman, an anonymous Brighton street art duo, is providing two special pieces of Houdini himself.
The Postman duo say: "When we got offered the job at the Houdini bars, we got very excited as we hadn’t a) made an artwork of a magician before and b) painted an official mural in Canterbury and Broadstairs.
"It was also a challenge as all we had to work with was a couple of 100+ years old facial images of the famous illusionist.
"The remaining pieces of the artwork had to be created from scratch, so we visited a few costume stores to gather material and staged a photo shoot. Bringing Harry Houdini into the 21st century and sharing him with our audience is an honour for us.”