(Bloomberg) -- Japanese whisky fanatics don’t generally look for their beverage of choice in New York’s Chinatown. But soon they will.

Down an alley off the Bowery, behind a camouflaged door at the back of the popular yakitori spot Kono, is the pocket-size Beatbox. On March 21 the whisky and vinyl den opens to the public. Or at least to guests who’ve dined at Kono or know someone who has.

The intimate, midcentury modern-styled Beatbox follows the Japanese custom of ichigen-san okotowari, or the “you’ve got to know someone” concept. Kono regulars, and friends of Kono regulars, will be given priority access to book the 100-square-foot bar. New customers can try sending requests through Instagram. 

“We are not trying to create artificial exclusivity,” says partner Selwyn Chan. He points to the intimacy of the space—the room can only accommodate groups of two to four people—as the reason to keep the guest list down.

The dimly lit, living-room-esque bar pays tribute to 1960s Japan, with antique wood cabinetry, a brown velvet love seat and a gray shag rug. The room is dominated by a wall of rare Japanese whiskies, sold in 2-ounce pours or whole bottles; leftovers can be taken home, or as happens in “bottle-keep” bars in Japan, Beatbox will also store the remaining contents for a future visit.

There are no cocktails, outside of highballs. The emphasis here is on pours, which, at the higher end, include Yamazaki’s lauded Sherry Cask whisky that goes for $1,300 a glass.

The soundproof space is outfitted with a record player, two hi-fi speakers and rows of vinyl from chef, partner and former break dancer Atushi Kono’s personal collection, ranging from the Beatles to jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery to Run-DMC. (Guests can also bring their own LPs.) Each reservation—available at 5 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.—spans 60 minutes, or the approximate duration of most albums. 

Chan is expecting a long line of customers, as Japanese whisky is one of the spirit world’s hottest commodities. Among Beatbox’s costlier pours are glasses of smoky Hakushu 25 or brown-sugar-imbued  Hibiki 30, which go for upwards of $1,000. But there are more reasonable options like the Chita, for $28 a pour. 

Related:  A Whisky Lover’s Guide to Japan

Chan and Kono collaborated with alcohol behemoth Suntory Holdings Ltd. to create Beatbox, sharing the cost of the build-out. For the past six months the booze brand has used the space to entertain clients. Its whiskies will be on display for the next two months, but customers can request other pours (there is no menu);  Beatbox will stock about five dozen options, total, when it opens. 

Starting this summer, the team will expand the selection to comprise about 75 by-the-glass options, including such sought-after labels as Karuizawa’s 19 Year Old ($650 per 2-oz. pour), the Nikka Taketsuru 25 ($900) and Ichiro’s Hanyu the Joker (which goes for upwards of $800 a pour based on market price).

During the hour that customers have the space, servers will do everything from flip records to refresh a highball—simply press the call button located on a side table and someone will come in. Customers with an expense account can check out the rotating reserve list offering whiskies by the bottle. Prices, which fluctuate based on market value, begin at around $2,500 for the Yamazaki 18 Year limited edition and span up to $14,000 for the Hibiki 30 Year Kacho Fugetsu limited edition. 

Besides the know-someone roots of Beatbox, the owners say they’re inspired by Japan’s culture of tiny stand-up bars known as tachinomis, meshed with the global trend of retro-themed listening-room bars that continue to proliferate.

Beatbox also expands New York’s love affair with Japanese whisky, highlighted at places including the Lower East Side Japanese cocktail haunt Bar Goto and the whimsically garnished cocktail lair NR on the Upper East Side, as well as newer spots like Gramercy’s innovative drink-focused Martiny’s and the luxe Flatiron lounge Shinji’s. But nobody in the city stocks the type of rare and discontinued bottles that Beatbox will offer. 

The trick is getting in to taste them.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.