The Disruptive Force in London’s Bar Scene
Meet Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan
Ryan Chetiyawardana, also known as Mr Lyan, is a transformative figure in London’s bar scene, comparable in impact to many Members of Parliament. His influence extends beyond traditional boundaries, reshaping the city’s hospitality landscape. While he gained recognition through White Lyan, a bar that closed in 2017, his subsequent ventures have continued to redefine the cocktail experience in London and beyond.
From White Lyan to a Bartending Empire
White Lyan, despite its closure, remains legendary among cocktail enthusiasts and industry insiders. Chetiyawardana’s journey began with this pioneering establishment, which challenged conventions and set a new standard for cocktail bars. His subsequent ventures, including Dandelyan, Cub, Lyaness, and Seed Library in London, along with Silver Lyan in Washington, DC, and Super Lyan in Amsterdam, have expanded his bartending empire. Additionally, he actively collaborates with brands through Mr Lyan Studio, organizes pop-ups, conducts masterclasses, and has authored two books.
The Man Behind the Innovations
Ryan Chetiyawardana’s journey into bartending was unconventional. Initially, he trained as a chef and pursued studies in fine art, biology, and philosophy. Bartending started as a means to support his university education but soon became his passion. The intersection of scientific, artistic, and philosophical elements in mixology fascinated him, ultimately leading to a full-time career in bartending.
The Birth of White Lyan: A Radical Approach
White Lyan, conceived in collaboration with his sister Natasha and stylist Karen Langley, emerged from a desire to challenge the status quo in the cocktail world. It aimed to break away from the conventions of classic cocktail bars, focusing on human interaction, fun, and sustainability. White Lyan served pre-made, techy bottled cocktails prepared in a professional kitchen before service, eliminating the need for ice or perishable ingredients. This approach minimized waste to less than one bag per week. Instead of reinventing old cocktails, the team created entirely new drinks based on broad concepts.
Radical Success and Recognition
Although White Lyan faced initial skepticism from peers, it was a resounding success. Icons like Björk DJed at their first anniversary party, and even Beyoncé and Jay Z visited the bar. White Lyan’s disruptive approach to cocktails and customer experience garnered widespread attention.
Expanding the Portfolio
Chetiyawardana continued to innovate with bars like Dandelyan, known for its eclectic soundtrack featuring artists like Black Sabbath, and Cub, which explored sustainability “upstream” from traditional bars. Lyaness replaced Dandelyan, aiming to make “weird ingredients” more accessible, and Seed Library emerged as a response to the pandemic, emphasizing community.
Challenges and the Future
Ten years after the birth of White Lyan, Chetiyawardana remains concerned about Brexit’s impact on London’s diversity and creativity, particularly in the culinary and cocktail scenes. Despite these challenges, he is focused on reviving all his bars within suites at the Sea Containers hotel to celebrate this milestone. From October 10 to 13, Chetiyawardana and his community will reunite to showcase what makes each of his bars unique, including their signature cocktails.
A Toast to a Remarkable Journey
As Chetiyawardana’s community gathers for this celebration, they reflect on their journey, which began with uncertainty but has led to remarkable achievements. It’s a moment to raise a glass to their innovative spirit and enduring impact on London’s bar scene.