Overpressure Club and Project Gigglewater

A look at the business from an insider’s perspective to showcase the many ways in which F&B shapes our world. Today the F&B Files visits The Overpressure Club and Project Gigglewater, two bars that have gone a long way to transforming the streets they are on, Bloor and Dundas respectively, and in the process shaping and elevating cocktail culture in the city.

all interviews have been condensed and edited


Alfred Siu 
Owner/Bartender, Project Gigglewater and Overpressure Club

In 2016 I was living in Vancouver bartending at The Diamond and Hello Goodbye, when I decided to head to Toronto and open my own bar. As soon as I moved here two great things happened right off the bat; I got a job at El Rey and I found Ori. He started showing me potential locations for my bar. I remember the first place we looked at was kind of a notorious afterhours called Sex Laser. It didn’t click, we kept on looking. He showed me a lot of places.

A year passed and I asked Ori if I could look at the space again. On that second visit I knew it was the right spot.

It was one of those places where you could get a dimebag and a beer at the bar. It wasn’t that bad to be honest, things were dirty but it was mostly an empty space. Not a lot of things to tear out except for their somewhat infamous red velvet couch, we had to take a chainsaw to it.

With Gigglewater my dad and I worked on it together. He flew in from Vancouver and stayed with me for a month. We tiled the bathroom ourselves. The contractor was like if you want to save some money do the insulation. I thought, how bad could it be? Well, it’s fibreglass, if it gets on your skin it’s really itchy and it’s bad to inhale. That was messy work. I understand why the contractor opted out. Other than that, it was a lot of fun working with my dad, it was really rewarding. I mean, I felt like a teenager sometimes, but that’s family right?

He passed away a year after we opened and I’m so glad we had that time together. He helped me build my dream, literally. He was our very first customer on opening night.

I was excited to open but maybe I was a little overconfident in my abilities. I had a name in Vancouver but in Toronto nobody cared. I had to start from scratch. I started with seven staff and had to lay them all off. I didn’t pay myself for the first six months. I just worked my way through it and eventually we started to gain some traction. There was a bunch of press that definitely helped, and word of mouth was spreading. Suddenly we had large parties coming in and big bookings, things were looking up. And then the pandemic hit.

We were one of the first to start selling cocktail kits and those did really well. We became one of the biggest suppliers of cocktail kits across Canada. The kits helped us to stay relevant during lockdowns, so people started coming in once we reopened.

We moved into the old Northwood space. I had looked at it in 2022, so when it was listed in 2023 I pulled the trigger. I didn’t stuff any insulation this time around. I hired a great team, led by the amazing designers, Justin Vinet and Yana Kaz of Confit Design. What they created blew me away. I think it’s fair to say it’s one of the most beautiful bars in the city. And this time around I didn’t do the insulation. No thanks.

We’ve got 40 seats inside and 90 out. To produce craft cocktails to serve 90 seats, it’s almost impossible if you’re shaking and stirring. We did batch cocktails during the pandemic for the kits, that’s when we got our first taste of it, and I wanted to do that in a bar. Inspiration came from Double Chicken Please and Dante in New York, and Taiwan’s Draft Land.

The Overpressure Club is all about draught cocktails, we have 20 different cocktails on our list. A dozen on tap, eight carbonated, four nitro and eight shaken or stirred or thrown. Within our whole cocktail menu we have three NA; one is carbonated, one is nitro and one is blended.

What we’re doing is very different. These are craft cocktails, so it’s a very in-depth process. It takes us two to three days just to get a keg ready.Our customers love it. Our colleagues in the bar community are big supporters too. I love Mother, Civil Liberties, Bar Pompette and Bar Banane. We’re all in friendly competition, they drive me to do better. One of my goals is to make the World’s 50 Best Bars list.

Overpressure opened November 1st and the response has been incredible. Now I can’t wait to open the patio this spring.

Now I’m looking for the next project. I don’t know how to do anything else, this is my passion.

CHI Real Estate is a commercial brokerage focused on F&B. Everyone who works here comes from the industry. We’re former chefs, owners, pizzaiolos, baristas and bartenders, and we know restaurants from the inside out.

If you are interested in opening a restaurant, or selling one, CHI Real Estate can help. Get in touch with our team today.