Tequila ambassador and founder of La Perla, Cafe Pacifico and Ocho Tequila, Tomas Estes, tells the following story of the origins of Lost and Found in Nicosia, Cyprus
This bar is rocking. It is filled with noise, dance, and good looking people having a good time. My son Jesse and nephew James are behind the bar pouring tequila and cocktails. I barely hear over the noise an inspirational story from Dinos, the host, and I want to hear more. We make an appointment for the next day.
There’s a message here inside a man’s story.
Dinos Constantinides, managing partner of Lost and Found in Nicosia, Cyprus, shared the following with me. Our chat started off with my comment to him: ‘There’s a message I got from talking to you last night that I’d like to look at.’
Constantinides is not from a rich family, although they have had no problems with money, and his life was not difficult. After university in London he did different things to make money. He didn’t want to work in an office even though the dream job in Cyprus was to be an accountant, or to work in a bank or for the government, where the salaries and benefits were good.
He wanted to work in the bar industry. He wanted to be free. He was entrepreneurial, and found holes in the market and filled them. He needed to find money for his projects, and his family couldn’t fund them. He had tried Hypnotic – the liqueur – had loved it and wanted to be its importer in Cyprus. Heaven Hill, the brand owner, agreed, but the project failed because of his lack of knowledge of the market.
In 2008 and 2009 Constantinides set up the first mobile bar concept in Cyprus. There was no existing market for this, and this was also during the global financial crisis. In the first year there were only three events for the business.
He worked on a friend’s start-up cocktail bar, and after this went on to start a bar school with 5,000 euros of Bacardi’s support. In 2012 an event with the mobile bar concept attracted investors, and out of this evolution ‘Your Bartender Headquarters’ was created: a low rent showroom to house mobile bar events, as well as a space for the bar school.
What’s in a name?
The team wanted the then-pink interior of the space to resemble a bar with the right ambience for their bar school. Everything was made by hand. Friends, as well as Constantinides’ father, were the labor and the staff of the company. Fixtures, fittings and old furniture were found in old houses. A name was forming…
The first big event was March 2013. The space was rented to promote Martini Royale, and it was a big success. The very next day, a recession hit.
Two major banks went bankrupt. It was a catastrophe. Constantinides and team needed a new income stream, to leave the island or… to start a proper bar.
The first night as a bar was an event for charity, with proceed given to families hurt by the crash. The night was such a success that they thought: ‘What proper bar shall we make?’
For the team, their dream bar included attention to detail, quality ice, Instagram-friendly drinks, advanced bar techniques, friendly and hospitable staff, consistency, and a large and well-chosen spirits selection.
The name forms
True to its past, the bar’s construction was hand made by the team. And its copper bar top had meaning, considering the word ‘Cyprus’ is based on the word for copper.
Furniture was from the lost and found. Someone had put the furniture in storage, and the team found these pieces and used them.
The original staff was five, and the bar was open four days a week. After day two there were queues outside. Two more staff were hired. Nowadays there are sometimes 300-400 guests per night, inside and outside on the covered veranda.
The opening drinks list consisted mainly of cocktails – unusual for Cyprus at the time.
After 11 months of being open, the fire came in July 2014. It is fully known now that this was intentionally set, but this is a story for another time. What is most important is that this intimidation didn’t stop the spirit of the bar. Once again it was the team’s own labour that rebuilt everything over the next month.
The bar had been lost and re-found, and the team bonded over the course of this intense rebuilding month.
Constantinides wants to give back, and share his bounty. He wants to give his team incentives, and motivation to want to get up in the morning. He is currently involved currently in three moneymaking enterprises with three different members of staff. One is creating bartender aprons, while another is making videos about bar culture. A third is making cocktail ingredients.
Constantinides wants to provide opportunities from which his staff and family can benefit, not only in monetary terms, but also from experiencing ‘things done right’.
Alexis Argyou, a member of the team, told me: ‘We came together as a family not only because some of us are actually related by blood, we came together because we share a certain state of mind. The idea of giving people what they need is a matter above all.’
He added: ‘Dinos has been an employer, a friend, a brother and a father to us and there is nothing we can do to repay this man for the good he did to us. He opened his bar, his life and his heart to us and so do we to all those guests that join us every night for an experience of a lifetime.’
Bright lights beacon out
Constantinides’ story and purpose remind me of what the Greeks call ‘meraki’. In my understanding, this means, passion, pride, love, and putting one’s self into what one does. I admit to understanding liberally what I want to about this word.
I want to think that I’ve done my bars, restaurants and tequila with meraki. I am also reminded of the world-famous La Capilla bar in Tequila, Mexico, where Don Javier, the owner and a bartender since 1945, says that his place is about respecting his guests.
Likely what I sensed during the first conversation with Dino, amidst the tequila and fun, was this message – this energy of his expression of meraki. It is there in many places, in varying degrees. To be aware of it gives it more power. Let love be powerful as it is at Lost and Found.