For those that look forward to their daily Happy Hour time with friends and coworkers, you’ve probably never heard of a little law called Prohibition, in which alcohol was once banned. It all started at the height of the 20th century, when The Women’s Christian Temperance Union convinced Congress to pass an Amendment outlawing alcohol, convinced that it was the source of all evils (namely crime, poverty, and mental illness.)
This Eighteenth Amendment last 13 long years, during which time people were murdered and bars and taverns vandalized. December 5th is known as Repeal Day because it marks the return to constitutional rights, mainly your right to enjoy alcohol.
We’ve gathered up a list of 10 speakeasy style bars across the country. If one is in a town near you, stop by today with a group of friends or coworkers to celebrate the day alcohol returned as a sacred social custom.
The Patterson House
1711 Division St Nashville, TN 37203
Nashville entrepreneur Benjamin Goldberg is behind this Southern speakeasy, named after Tennessee Governor Malcolm R. Patterson. Patterson vetoed the Prohibition at the beginning of the 20th century. Designed with modern additions added to southern flair, the cocktail list is a mile long with signature ice balls delivered from Japan. 20-meter-long bar seats 30 comfortably and dozens of cozy booths adorn the inside of this inviting bar.
43 West San Salvador Street San Jose, CA 95113
Born in the wrong decade? If your pining to experience the Roaring Twenties, the Singlebarrel bar is for you. Bouncers and bar staff keep the 1920s alive by dressing in period costume (guests can feel free to do the same!) but the attention isn’t on the clothes, it’s on the drinks: gimlets, sours, and Old Fashioneds. Smoking, not surprisingly, is welcome on the patio and cigars are sold by servers.
The Raines Law Room
48 W 17th St New York, NY 10011
No Phone Number
The Raines Law Room got its name from an 1896 liquor tax. The law prohibited bars from serving alcohol on Sunday, the one day a week men could actually enjoy a nice cold brewski since they worked Monday through Saturday. Hotels found a loophole around the law, adding bedrooms they turned into saloons. This increased not only drinking, but prostitution. The bar now has private booths with the kind of couches that make it difficult to get out of, but perfect for settling in for the night.
The Cloak Room opened 40 years ago in a dark, windowless basement cloaked in secrecy, hence its name. There’s a jukebox that sits in the corner playing classics, and there’s a few strict rules newbies must abide by: no playing Johnny Cash after midnight, no excessive PDA, no smoking unless the bartender approves first, and most importantly, mind your own business!
The Owl Bar
1 East Chase Street Baltimore, MD 21202
The Owl Bar opened in 1903, known then as the Bar Room and later as the Falstaff Room, before making its final transition (thus far!) as the Owl Bar. Even back then, it was a city favorite for mixed drinks or cold beers. It was known as the kind of place where you could come back 20 years later and see the same people. A Cheers type of atmosphere where “everyone knows your name.”
The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co.
112 South 18th Street Philadelphia, PA 19103
A mobster hailing from South Philadelphia who ran one of the biggest bootlegging operations in America, Max “Boo Boo” Hoff is remembered as the king of bootleggers. Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. pays homage to Boo Boo by taking on the same name as his alcohol ring. At this modern speakeasy, patrons will find finely dressed bartenders serving up cocktails named for pre-Prohibition drinks. Not only do patrons have a chance to learn more about Boo Boo and his legacy, but this barroom also exists to serve “as a beacon for those who feel that a dram of alcohol is not meant as merely a vessel for intoxication, but a sensory experience all its own.”
Bourbon & Branch
501 Jones Street San Francisco, CA 94102
Bourbon & Branch has all the makings of a true speakeasy – maybe because it actually served as one during Prohibition. It was known as JJ Russell’s Cigar Shop at the time, but cigars weren’t its best sellers. Today, patrons enter an unmarked door under a sign reading “Anti-Saloon League.” They’re buzzed in only if they can provide the correct password (given when they secure their reservation). The unassuming entrance opens up to a stunningly elegant barroom. Finally, there’s an even more intimate and exclusive speakeasy within the speakeasy, located behind a bookshelf.
Death & Company
433 East 6th Street Manhattan, NY 10009
The early 20th century temperance movement popularized the idea that if you consume alcohol, you walk in the company of death. This speakeasy style bar doesn’t necessarily agree. Rather it plays on the outdated warning, and celebrates life and fine beverages. In keeping with the saying, the interior is sleek and dark and stiff drinks are aplenty. Some options that are to die for include Black Magic or the gin-based Pressure Drop.
728 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314
In true speakeasy fashion, this bar uses subtle cues to communicate with patrons. Pirate flags and blue lights signal that PX is open. Once inside, you’ll find a variety of drinks made by mixologist Todd Thrasher who uses unexpected ingredients in his creations. We’re talking pickled peaches and tobacco, here. In keeping with the ’20 fashion, the building location is historic, the woodwork is original and the chandeliers are imported, as explained by ‘The Boss Lady,’ who owns the joint.
1406 12th Avenue Seattle, WA 98122
Another bar concealing a bar, Tavern Law may be listed in GQ’s list of the best 25 bars in America, but this isn’t the secret pub we’re excited about. Located inside, near a vault door in the back you’ll find an old phone — real secretive, speakeasy style stuff. Drinkers with a reservation will have access upstairs where the other bar is located, named Needle & Thread. Here you don’t need to bother with a menu. The bartender will make you a special drink based on your preferences. It’s quite an experience.