Also known as a ‘Blind Pig’ or ‘Blind Tiger’ the speakeasy bar became popular during the prohibition era in the United States. A time when alcohol production, transportation and importation was banned. So what is a speakeasy bar?
If alcohol was banned in the US how did a bar called a speakeasy become popular?
What Is A Speakeasy Bar?
A speakeasy bar is an illegal bar, one that sells alcohol in secret. This is why they became so popular during the prohibition period of 1920 to 1933. The bar would be hidden from site, often behind a door of a legitimate business. Entry would be gained from a quite knock or the use of a password. Those that used them would speak easy of them, in other words keep them a secret.
Whereas a speakeasy was a secret bar that would serve drinks and food, and sometimes provide entertainment too. A Blind pig, or blind tiger were a lower class establishment that would charge to see a curious animal and throw in a complimentary drink, thus avoiding the law.
What Happen To The Speakeasy Bar?
The production of alcohol went underground, just as the sale of it did. The speakeasy bar was the method to get the alcohol to those seeking it. Tens of thousands of speakeasy bars popped up across the US from apartments to shop basements.
When prohibition ended and bars were allowed to open again, the speakeasy bar was no longer needed. The speakeasy bars disappeared and normal service resumed.
However years on speakeasy themed bars began to open. Bars themed on the old speakeasy style with secret entrances in places you would not expect. Small private bars in basements or premises disguised as something other than a bar.
They have now become fun retro bars which are very popular.
Do Real Speakeasy Bars Still Exist?
Whilst most speakeasy style bars are now legal and only operate in the essence of the early illegal bars. Mimicking the decor and the secret entrances used by the originals. There are still some bars that operate illegally. These are probably bars that do not have a licence to sell alcohol.
Just like the original speakeasy bars they do not advertise and operate under the radar. Probably only known to a select few and kept secret from the authorities.
The Speakeasy Comeback
In recent times when the world population was locked down and all pubs and bars were closed did the speakeasy make a comeback?
It is a possibility that some bars may have opened to a select few during the lockdown periods. A back door used instead of the normal front entrance. Curtains closed and lights kept off or kept to a minimum.
I am sure this didn’t actually happen, but if it did, then these would have been real modern day speakeasy bars.
Original Speakeasy Bars
Although most speakeasy bars vanished after the end of prohibition, there still remain some that have survived. Although they are no longer illegal, they did operate during the time when it was illegal and are still running today.
These are the original speakeasies that are still open today.
Townhouse And The Del Monte
Townhouse is the oldest bar in Venice, California and is still going strong today. In the basement below it has The Del Monte a live music venue that has a history.
The Del Monte was a real speakeasy back during the prohibition. Above the venue was a grocery store and served as the entrance to the bar below via a trap door.
A real life speakeasy bar.
The Landmark Tavern
The Landmark Tavern based in New York was established in 1868 and was an Irish waterfront saloon on the shores of the Hudson River.
During the prohibition era the third floor of the tavern once part of the home of the owners was converted into a bar. Obviously an illegal bar which was known as a speakeasy. I am not sure if the third floor is still a bar or has been converted back.
However the Tavern is still operating and has retained much of its original charm.
Bourbon And Branch
The Bourbon And Branch is a San Francisco bar with an illicit history. It was a bar that operated right through the prohibition period. Today it still has the ambience of the time when it was an illegal drinking den.
It managed to stay concealed from the authorities by looking like a cigar shop. However cigars are not all it sold. If a certain brand of cigar was requested then a trap door was opened which led downstairs to a basement.
An underground drinking den that is said to have had several tunnels that guests could exit the bar from. A unique speakeasy that still exists today and uses similar rules too.
A Speakeasy Home Bar
A speakeasy is a great idea for a home bar. Not to sell alcohol obviously, but just to base your home bar on the speakeasy style.
A basement would be ideal for this, just hide the entrance. A trap door or bookcase that opens to reveal a secret door.
Another idea is to partition a room in half. Build a stud wall and build the bar behind. Again make the door invisible so it blends in with the wall.
Kit the bar out in a 1920’s style to give it that real speakeasy feel. Anywhere you have a space for a small bar is ideal, just make sure it is hidden and a secret.
It’s a great way to impress guests by showing them to your secret speakeasy bar. This could also work for a shed pub. It might still look like a shed, but inside it hides a great speakeasy type bar.
A brilliant theme to bas a home bar on, and great fun too.
What Is A Speakeasy Bar?
An underground bar that became popular in the 1920’s during prohibition, with some still standing today. It seems whatever restrictions are put on the public, they will always find away to get around them.
Prohibition did not stop people drinking, in fact it just sent it underground. What it did do is create an industry that was unregulated. Liquor became stronger, drinking times became longer and behaviour became more risque.
All the authorities created was a new way of socialising, which had to be done behind close doors. A speakeasy was the place to do this and tens of thousands popped up all over America.
The result was that the prohibition just did not work and in December 1933 the ban of alcohol was ended.