In Conversation with Ryan Chetiyawardana – Lyaness & Mr. Lyan Studio

In Conversation with Ryan Chetiyawardana – Lyaness & Mr. Lyan Studio

“I’m Ryan Chetiyawardana, I’m a bartender based in London and we have a couple of bars around the world. We have Lyaness in London, Super Lyan over in Amsterdam and Silver Lyan in Washington DC. And then we have our creative agency here in London, which is Mr. Lyan Studio.”

Can you tell us about Lyaness?

Lyaness is our flagship in London and we’ve been home in that building for seven years now. It’s really an evolution of the way we’ve been working, really trying to focus on the way we like to explore the weird and wonderful ingredients, kind of push our boundaries a little bit, but how do you connect that to people to make it feel as relevant, as easy and as successful as possible.

What changes to do with sustainability have you experienced in your industry?

I suppose I’ve been working in the topic of sustainability for about ten years or so. It was really interesting when I first started exploring it, it was actually seen as a bit of a front for a lot of the industry. A lot of people saw it as a contrast or an antithesis to what they were trying to explore, a luxury product and something that was all about focusing on the high end. A lot of the work was trying to talk about how it’s not at odds with that, that it can go hand in hand and luxury and sustainability aren’t contradictory terms. So it’s amazing to see from that position how much it’s become normalised, it’s become very much part of the fabric, people have really run away with it. Looking at a lot of solutions to the problems. One thing I’ve found with it is that there isn’t one problem, per se. It’s geographical, it’s across styles of venue, towards us as an industry as a whole, or as a society as a whole. It’s become very normal to address it as a problem, which is essentially what we’ve all been trying to fight towards.

How important is the sustainability of people?

It was one of the first things we shifted to when we were looking at the topic. Yes of course, material waste is important, things like energy and so forth. But it was a major thing of going, ‘well, we need to consider the full chain of things and the major part of that is the people.’ Obviously it’s acutely on our side as an industry and we’re facing that at the moment, through all of the changes that are going on, we are trying to find ways of going have we demonstrated this as a long term, viable career for people. Something they can be part of for all of our lives. It can be meaningful, it can be creative and it can support them in a way they need. It’s all well and good going, ok we’ve managed to create something that’s great for our team, great for the people coming to enjoy it but if it’s then creating a suffering or imbalance further up the line, then that’s not a sustainable cocktail.

What does the future sustainability look like within your industry?

I think it needs to go hand in hand with government action. There’s a lot of work being done within the food and drink industry to address the problems that we face. But it’s a fraction of what needs to change on a systemic level. What we’re trying to demonstrate here is that there’s demand for sustainable practices; it’s feasible and it sits in line with all the metrics we want and need from the industry. But it’s really trying to encourage the fact that we need to be able to be in dialogue to create proper change.

What have you been able to do to become a more sustainable focussed company?

The steps we’ve taken have evolved over the course of the 10 years we’ve been a company. From the early days, White Lyon was an exercise in sustainability, that was the demonstration. We had no waste. We weren’t using fresh materials, we were creating everything ourselves, we set it all up to have our own loops and systems that meant we recycled bottle caps and threw away some napkins and that was about it. But we’ve tried to explore different sides to the problems as we’ve gone on. With each of the bars, they’re using organic materials, how can we find ways of demonstrating the value of every part of that ingredient? We’ve taken a very nose-to-tail approach to everything that we can. Working with people like Aerial or Dr. Johnny, who can help us on the material sides or from a fermentation point of view, and how to use wonderful microbes to transform those wastes. This to a point that we can go this is something we have found a solution to, hopefully you can either adopt that as a technique or you can learn and apply it to problems you have. The whole sustainability thing is like a hydra, you cut off one head and two appear. You uncover different things. There’s a beauty to that as well. It’s a great creative tool, you’re always coming up with new solutions, you’re always getting more to the core of the problem. It goes beyond simply going, ‘this is a waste product’ to going, ‘this is actually something we can demonstrate that is really valuable to our communities.’

Interview by Thomas Sumner of The Essential Journal.

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