Jay Khan: Agave Activist

With a group of forward-thinking investors and a trusted business partner behind him, Khan opened Coa in late 2017.

“It was super tough for us at first,” says Khan. “The concept was there and the drinks were great but we didn’t have any PR so we didn’t get an initial buzz. We lost money every month for the first year so it was pretty scary, but eventually through word of mouth people started to understand that we weren’t just a regular tequila bar.”

Momentum continued to grow until in 2019 Coa broke into Asia’s 50 Best Bars as the Highest New Entry and snuck into the global list at number 49.

“That brought a big influx of international guests, but I still wanted to attract a local following, because I always wanted to change the local perception of agave spirits,” says Khan. “One silver lining of Covid is that, because of travel restrictions, we were able to attract a bigger local following.”

Coa now sits number eight in The World’s 50 Best and earlier this year it was ranked number one in Asia. 

“Becoming the Best Bar in Asia was never our aim, we just wanted to nail the basics and execute everything to the very best of our ability, I think that’s why we were successful,” says Khan.

“Regardless of how busy we are I tell my staff to sit down with guests until they fully understand anything they want to know about agave. 

“I wanted to bring something new to Hong Kong and the goal of Coa will never be complete because it’s an ongoing process. I think hard work and passion is one thing, but without a little bit of luck I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Modesty aside, Khan earned his luck and with plans to open a second venue in Shanghai this July, his unstoppable influence on Asia’s bar scene looks set to continue.