NYC is seeing a resurgence of speakeasy themed bars


You may have heard of a few new bar openings lately.

A19 open in october. And came Venice bar, Holy Tuesday, Less, New to Serafina in the Sky and Dom. What do they all have in common? They are all reminiscent of the speakeasy of yesteryear. It doesn’t just mean a little hidden bars like Nothing really matterswhose owner Adrien Gallo acknowledges that his hidden location does the trick, but doesn’t shout it out as a branding opportunity.

Speakeasy are not new. Formed by force of circumstance when alcohol was practically forbidden for thirteen years, they existed between 1920 and 1933. And never again.

speakeasy Notions are a more recent invention. Since alcohol is currently legal, anything described as a speakeasy in a press release or via social media requires a qualifier like -influenced, -inspired, or -themed. As a result, the best speakeasy concepts in new york share some common elements, but they don’t combine to create an obvious genre like, say, sports bars.

There’s no, you know, password or anything like that.

“There are levels of fluent“says PDT owner Jeff Bell. an acronym for please don’t sayit opened in the East Village in 2007 as the Platonic ideal of form: located down a few steps, inside the hot dog shop Crif Dogs and via a phone booth. “Anything unmarked is kind of a speakeasy, indeed, because that’s where the concept originated. Something that is hidden. Some sort of unannounced entrance is a very general way of putting it,” Bell says, among many caveats.

Photography: Courtesy of Delia Barth

“We don’t really consider ourselves a speakeasy,” Gallo tells Nothing Really Matters, which opened on New Year’s Eve. “Just because a speakeasy is deliberately hidden. And we’re naturally hidden.

The Nothing Really Matters hideout is by the downtown 1 train entrance on the south side of 50th Street, just west of Broadway. The vestibule outside the bar is telegenically messy and its door is on the right before you slip into the system. Its large tinted windows, further darkened by Gallo-designed wooden vertical blinds, would be easy to miss during rush hour.

“There’s no, you know, password or anything like that,” Gallo said.

Like most hospitality professionals interviewed for this article, he also says that, as was the case before the pandemic, the rent for smaller or unusual spaces like Nothing Really Matters is relatively more affordable. After the last two years, even a slightly lower price is more attractive than ever. On the consumer side, Gallo attributes a collective need for burgeoning rebellion to the demand for secluded spaces.

There is a certain amount of craftsmanship that goes into these small rooms.

“Maybe it’s because we’ve been alone for so long for the past two years, and we’ve been told, because of the spread of the virus, to stay outside, to be constantly two meters away from everything. the world,” he said. “In response to that, unfortunately, or fortunately, human nature always pushes back. I think there’s something to be said about being really excited to be behind closed doors with a group of people you like, or are going to meet, and party with.

Gallo also suggests that the pandemic may have both rekindled and fueled the public’s desire for novelty.

“I think for a lot of speakeasies, the journey to get there or knowing is half of it, right? It’s a bit like the look. And it’s kind of fun, isn’t it? So we’ve been sitting at home looking at ourselves or looking at ourselves in the mirror or whatever, or we’re constantly contacting people on Zoom. And now we’re going to explore to try to find something totally unique, that maybe just opened and that no one has experienced yet. So we’re really excited about that.

Non published
Photograph: Courtesy of Alex Ancheta

A few blocks from downtown, UnPublished has opened indoors the Pod Hotel in Times Square in February, through Serafina in the Sky and beyond a velvet curtain. UnPublished’s conceit is reminiscent of venues that emerged at the start of New York’s latest speakeasy-style resurgence: Operators don’t plan to list it on booking platforms, and would-be guests are urged to acquire a “phantom number ” for easier entry. All of this creates a more egalitarian exclusivity than private clubs like Zero bond. Unpublished Karim Amatullah, marketing partner and operator, says recent public interest around this and other similar locations could be one reasonable explanation for the return of the speakeasy theme.

The pandemic mimicked the time of Prohibition where [people] had to join in secret to drink quietly.

For customers fresh from long periods at home during the pre-vaccine pandemic, moving from our small New York apartments to those slightly less small speakeasy-style bars, where someone else is making the cocktails and there’s stuff to instagramis a huge improvement, without huge membership fees.

“There’s a certain amount of craftsmanship that goes into these little rooms,” said Amatullah. “People are really trying to cater to a certain type of life that’s not just aesthetic, but maybe a certain type of nerd life. This means you want something a little more sophisticated.

“I am also the consumer,” he says. “I’m not only looking to go places, but I’m also trying to create spaces where people can go and they feel like they can take a moment of rest. There is quality in the decoration and the design and the aesthetic quality that goes into the services and the people who take care of you.

Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else simmer the simple syrup, for example.

Dom, a hidden speakeasy-style bar in New York
Photography: Courtesy of DomDom

Dom, in Gramercy, is even newer, having opened the subway on 22nd Street (around the corner from its Park Avenue South technical address) on March 4.

“I would describe DOM as an exclusive lounge for those who love the concepts of art, fashion, music, culture and elaborate cocktails,” owner Albert Trummer wrote in an email. It connects dots across the past century to form a constellation that illustrates the 2022 trend.

“I think this is because New York is becoming more inclusive and customers want to feel closer,” he wrote. “The pandemic has mimicked the time of Prohibition where [people] had to join in secret for a quiet drink and I think that’s why a rise in hidden bars and speakeasies has popped up over the last few months.

The bar class continues to grow rapidly, with even more openings planned for the coming months. However, the new additions to the scene could relax a key tenant of the genre: the appearance of being difficult to penetrate.

You could really organize round tables on this subject.

Business partners and friends Lindsay Weiss and Alyssa Golub will open a grocery store called Pine & Polk in Soho next to Hudson Square this spring. They will also be running a cocktail bar called PS in the back.

“Many well-known speakeasies in New York City are very difficult to get into and very difficult to get reservations.” Weiss said.

“We want to be an accessible hidden concept,” says Golub. “Sometimes when you walk into a speakeasy, it’s busy and you don’t have a reservation, or you have to wait, and they don’t really care about you. And that doesn’t mean everyone, but for me hospitality is an extremely important part of how we operate. And I want everyone, even if you can’t come in, to feel welcome and to come back.

Angel's share
Photography: Filip Wolak

Yet, as new speakeasy-themed spots open up, some modern classics of the genre continue to struggle. For example: last week unwelcome rumors this Angel’s sharethe low-key East Village bar that launched the resurgence of the speakeasy concept in New York in 1993, may be forced to close or relocate.

If Angel’s Share is to close or relocate after nearly 30 years as the epitome of the modern speakeasy, there’s no doubt that its influence will continue to be felt across the category.

These bars change shape: one might have a heavy, unmarked wooden door on a staircase, another might be right behind a curtain, and the next might be on the other side of a phone booth, like in PDT, although Bell disturbingly points out that the city’s youngest legal drinkers may not even recognize one. They are mainly aimed at recreating the ironic appearance of isolation, even if there are lines at the door, hopefully.

Bell also points out that, like the genre itself, the reasons for the resurgence are both old and new: the common desire to experience places that no one else – or at least fewer people – know . Post-pandemic commercial vacancies that are particularly conducive to speakeasy concepts and not much else. Social networks in general. It’s almost easier to identify why they are than what they are.

“You could really have roundtables on this topic that I wouldn’t like to be on because I think people take things too seriously, what they are and what they aren’t,” Bell says. “It’s what you want it to be.”

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