Moe Aljaff: The Schmuck who hit gold

“Because our venues are all on the same street, we’ve actually influenced the area and we have an opportunity to create our own bar scene, which is really exciting,” says Aljaff.

“People were concerned about the volume of clientele if we opened up in the same place, but for me it’s been an opportunity to show how diverse we can be within the brand. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got when opening a bar was to make sure it did as much for the local community as possible, because your neighbourhood is what makes the bar successful. Therefore taking it away from that area could be a risk.” 

What differentiates Two Schmucks from other bars in The World’s 50 Best is the combination of world-class drinks and a dive bar attitude, serving happy hour beers, shots and grilled cheese sandwiches.

“When I was growing up in Scandinavia, I worked in places where I’d have to turn up 30 minutes early and iron my shirt every day. Don’t get me wrong, I still love going to those kind of places and being looked after really well with a Martini served at the table, but at the same time I love the dive bar environment.

“I don’t see us as disruptive, I see us as an evolution within the industry. I think it was important for bartenders to wear suits and charge high prices for cocktails because it demanded more respect for the profession. And now that’s allowed us to take this different approach while retaining that level of respect for what we do. People now understand it’s about the product and the service and not just how it’s presented.”

For most bar owners, launching two venues during a pandemic would be enough, but Aljaff’s plans are only getting bigger and bolder. “Right now I have creative freedom, but the ultimate goal is to have financial freedom to open a site without any obstacles, or to host an event wherever we want and do what we want.”

As for recognising his own success, Aljaff doesn’t let himself rest on his laurels. “Occasionally I walk down the street and see my bars filled with people enjoying themselves and I make myself take a moment to enjoy it, breath it in. But only for a second or two.”