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Insider Scoop: The Top 20 Speak Easy’s Still Operating In The U.S.

There was a time in the United States. when drinking adult beverages was considered against the law. The country had yet to weather the storms that would become the Depression and World War II. By banning libations, the country attempted to reduce crime. That plan backfired though when speakeasies started cropping up.

Usually small and hidden behind closed doors to keep a low-profile, speakeasies were establishments where people could get a drink during the U.S.'s prohibition. At the heart of it, speakeasies are a U.S. novelty. People from the United States are always about having will and determination. Even in prohibition, where there's a will, there's a way.

Although speakeasies originally opened nearly 100 years ago, many are still open and serving today. Even though the U.S.'s ban on such drinks is long over, these speakeasies still draw plenty of patrons today. Many in fact still retain the same practices and culture of those original establishments. Adding to their allure and intrigue, some speakeasies today still employ hidden passageways and secret passwords. Only now, they're not as dangerous as speakeasies once were where actual criminals like Al Capone used to hang out.

Compiled below are speakeasies still open and serving customers today. Although speakeasies are operating around the world, these only reside in the U.S. since that's where it all began.

20 The Back Room Bar — New York, New York

Via: Travel And Leisure

Appropriately dubbed The Back Room Bar — for literally having a backdoor — resides in New York City and survived the Prohibition. According to Trip Advisor, there isn’t a proper sign outside advertising the hidden venue.

The entrance is in an alley, down a flight of stairs and behind a nondescript door.

It's that kind of touch that's remained unchanged all these years that makes this a classic speakeasy. Like others on the list, they also serve drinks in teacups. Although small, the atmosphere is sure to make one feel like they've stepped back in time. As long as one goes for the adventure, it'll be hard to leave disappointed.

19 Townhouse and The Del Monte — Los Angeles, California

Via: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Los Angeles County was once a hotbed for bootlegging. It's no surprise then that the city has several speakeasies, original and modern, throughout the city. Townhouse — and The Del Monte located below — are just a couple of such examples. It's located in Venice, Los Angeles, and like most speakeasies, doesn't open until 5:00 PM.

According to The Spirits Business, it was something of a nightlife destination and hotspot when it first opened in 1915. Much of the beverages The Del Monte served during the Prohibition era supposedly came through the city's secret channel at the time, which was against the law. Now, it's believed to be one of the oldest bars open in Los Angeles today.

18 Midnight Cowboy — Austin, Texas

Via: GCIA

Not to be mistaken with the famous Oscar-winning movie, Midnight Cowboy is a speakeasy located in Austin, Texas. According to Business Insider though, it wasn't always a speakeasy. It once served as a massage parlor.

That hasn't kept the owners of Midnight Cowboy from taking down its sign out front, which is bound to confuse tourists and unaware passersby. The sign still reads "Midnight Cowboy Modeling Oriental Massage."

This place is hip, so be sure to make a reservation and dress accordingly.

The outlet also makes note that parties over eight aren't allowed. The cocktails are sure to please newbies and snobs alike.

17 Chumley’s — New York, New York

Via: PUNCH

It doesn't get more speakeasy than this. Founded during the Prohibition in 1922, Chumley's is off 86 Bedford St. in New York. It also served as a haunt for famous authors F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

According to New York Magazine, they locked up the bar for about ten years from 2006-2016. Today, it still has the feel of the 1920s though, in spite the changes that took place during its remodeling. One of the staples of this speakeasy is no more, however. According to the outlet, it's still accessible but not by its backdoor as it had been for many years.

16 Schaller’s Pump — Chicago, Illinois

Via: Thrillist

Located in Chicago, Schaller's Pump has been around for eons. According to Smithsonian Magazine, it's the oldest bar in Chicago to serve drinks without stopping. Even the Prohibition didn't keep Schaller's Pump from pumping out libations to those who were willing to risk it.

While some speakeasies still operating today maintain classic traditions, others have modernized.

Today, its walls are full of White Sox memorabilia and photos. It makes sense White Sox fans have appropriated the classic bar, considering it's close to Guaranteed rate Field where the team plays. Be sure to go in with cash since the bar won't accept credit cards.

15 The Raines Law Room — New York, New York

Via: Eater NY

Although this speakeasy in New York wasn't around in 1896, its name does make a reference to a law that same year. The Raines Law, passed in March 1896, taxed liquor. Now, with the law long done and away with, this speakeasy is paying homage to America's Prohibition days.

Like many modern speakeasies, it's a throwback to the 1920s when people had to sneak around to get their fill of libations. It has all the makings of a speakeasy. As the Thrillist notes, there's dim lights, unique decor and cocktails inside, which is all a speakeasy really needs to make its patrons happy.

14 The Cave — Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Via: AFAR Media

There's a reason they call it The Cave. Located in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, is the Omni Mount Washington Resort, as per Smithsonian Magazine.

Though rest assured, hidden deep within the Omni hotel, surrounded by granite walls, is The Cave.

Although it's decked out with flat screen TVs, it still carries some of the Prohibition charms from when it operated in the 1920s. For example, they still serve certain libations in teacups. That's what customers would drink out of in case of cops ever busting in on the place. Having opened in 1902, as per The Boston Globe, it still stands and serves drinks to this day.

13 King Eddy Saloon — Los Angeles, California

Via: Eater

At the time of writing this, the Kind Eddy Saloon has stood for 85 years. Found in downtown Los Angeles, this bar survived the Prohibition and still serves customers today.

According to The Spirits Business, poet Charles Bukowski whose many stories took place in Los Angeles made this place a regular hangout. It may not rest in the safest area of Los Angeles, but it's certainly got the grit to stick around. Supposedly, during the Prohibition, the saloon was temporarily staged as a piano shop. Underneath the guise of pianos though was a basement where people could come and drink to their heart's content.

12 Lumber Baron Bar — Grand Rapids, Michigan

Via: Pinterest

There's a speakeasy stowed away in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Named the Lumber Baron Bar, it's a must-see-stop when passing through Grand Rapids, Michigan. The atmosphere is rustic and charming with wood accented columns and plush booths for seating.

Part of what sets the mood is a welcoming fireplace.

As per Trip Advisor, a notable feature of the Lumber Baron is the round bar situated in the center of the room. Although there's limited seating there, it's definitely one of the best spots in the house. That is, of course, if those willing to seek it out can find it.

11 Speakeasy — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Via: Nightclub & Bar

Simply called Speakeasy, this Pittsburgh bar — like The Cave — resides in an Omni Hotel. Still secluded as a carry-over from the Prohibition era, the bar has since gone through a restoration, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

The restoration happened back in 2012. Although the bar got a makeover, it still remains small and intimate. It's a space that doesn't really accommodate more than fifty customers though. Like most speakeasies, it opens up at a later time. As Trip Advisor notes, expect lines and a long wait to get in since demand can be high depending on the day.

10 Mint Saloon — Sheridan, Wyoming

Via: SF Gate

It's hard not to notice this bar from the outside, what with the giant light-up rodeo cowboy sticking out of the roof. Originally called the Mint Saloon, it changed over to the Mint Cigar Company and Soda Shop, then Mint Bar which it still goes by today.

The initial name-change happened in light of the ban on adult beverages, otherwise known as the Prohibition.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the bar was something out of a western movie where cowboys didn't hesitate to ride into the bar on horseback. A warning though to animal lovers: there's plenty of elk heads and other wildlife lining the walls.

9 Old Chicago Inn — Chicago, Illinois

Via: Open House Chicago

Don't judge this speakeasy from its name alone. On paper, the Old Chicago Inn doesn't sound like anything extraordinary. Although it's a bed and breakfast on the surface, as per Forbes, the basement alone is worth seeking it out. Some of the cocktails are straight out of the 1920s.

It's easy to get swept up here imagining the scenes American author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about. If the drinks are hard, there's always the B&B to spend the night in too. Speaking of Fitzgerald, Forbes also notes a small library on the premises for bookworms who have time to kill.

8 Bar Argos — Finger Lakes Region, New York

Via: Lily And Matt

Another bar in New York state, the Bar Argos has been operating since 1896. Located in the Finger Lakes Region, it's a one-of-a-kind bar experience (even by speakeasy standards).

According to the Argos Inn website, the bar top is something special.

It's a custom bar made from two-hundred-year-old bricks with a finish made of beeswax. If that doesn't sound unique, we don't know what will. The bar is only open for a brief window of time though, between 4 and ten at night. It's worth checking out simply for the fact that the bar was up and running for over 120 years.

7 Belhurst Castle — Finger Lakes Region, New York

Via: Belhurst Castle

Bar Argos isn't the only speakeasy worth checking out in Finger Lakes Region, New York. There's also Belhurst Castle, which serves today as a hotel. There are only 14 rooms though, and each one is unique, according to Forbes.

Originally built during the 1800s, the venue has taken on many forms since. It was even a casino at one time. There's even a winery on the estate for guests and visitors to partake in. At one time, the premises served as a speakeasy retreat for patrons looking to get their fill in dry times. Now, people are free to drink there without concerns about the eighteenth amendment.

6 The Owl Bar — Baltimore, Maryland

Via: Zagat

Located in Baltimore, Maryland, The Owl Bar is an updated bar with an old-fashioned feel. It's inside the Hotel Belvedere, according to Forbes, serving not just drinks but food as well. To no one's surprise — being that it's a speakeasy — patrons will have to look high and low if they want a drink in The Owl Bar.

From the decor to the cocktails, it's a unique speakeasy experience.

Although some will contend the vibes are a bit louder than one would expect in a small hidden bar. A not-to-be-missed experience should one find themselves passing through Baltimore.

5 The Gibson — Washington, D.C.

Via: Liquor

The Gibson in Washington D.C. takes speakeasies to a whole new modern level. Although the bar used to require reservations, as per Washington City Paper, it's eased up a bit lately. Now they're on a first come, first serve basis.

Plus, the bar here is always mixing it up when it comes to new cocktail drinks and ideas. Smithsonian Magazine reports that in 1917, Washington D.C. had to close down all its bars before the rest of America did. Now, The Gibson is making up for that lost time with a new take on speakeasies of old.

4 Bourbon & Branch — San Francisco, California

Via: Eater SF

San Francisco has its share of hole-in-the-wall speakeasies. One that makes the cut is Bourbon & Branch, which has been around since the 1920s. According to The Spirits Business, the bar took several forms before it became the Bourbon & Branch it is today.

At one point, to appear under the radar in Prohibition times, it took on the form of a cigar shop.

Even below Bourbon & Branch is another bar called Ipswitch, which according to Thrillist, feels more like a saloon. The name of this hidden bar below also happens to be what the business went by according to the San Francisco Directory from 1921 to 1923.

3 McGillin’s Olde Ale House — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Via: Visit Philly

Not only is this one of the oldest speakeasies on the list, but one of the oldest bars in America. According to Smithsonian Magazine, McGillin's Olde Ale House arrived on the scene a year before the American Civil War.

Today though, it's not as secretive as it once was in Prohibition days. Previously run by a Ma McGillin, she served libations in teacups as part of a secret area in the venue. In her memory, every December, McGillin's Olde Ale House today celebrates with "marteanis" served in teacups like the ones Ma would've used. It's a must-stop destination in Philadelphia.

2 PDT — New York, New York

Via: Bucket List 127

PDT, also known as "Please Don't Tell" has become a go-to speakeasy in New York.

Although it didn't have to worry about the Prohibition, what it does have to worry about is standing up to former speakeasies like it.

Part of what makes this speakeasy stand apart from others is the fact that is has a phone booth inside, as per Thrillist. For those brave enough to pick up the phone, there's even a secret room and a whole other bar that opens up.

Not all are lucky to visit this secret within a secret bar though.

1 Williams & Graham — Denver, Colorado

Via: Esquire

It may not be as old as Prohibition, but it's hard not to deny Williams & Graham has a welcome take on the speakeasy. This isn't a family bar though. Patrons must be 21 years or older to enter. Although that doesn't mean they'll be able to find it in the first place.

According to Business Insider, the entrance is like something out of Indiana Jones: a door hidden by a bookcase opens wide to reveal the fashionable bar. Food is also available, although it's definitely got a contemporary feel. Be prepared to try some unique and sophisticated cocktails.

References: Smithsonian Magazine, The Spirits Business, The Boston Globe, Trip Advisor, Argos Inn, Forbes, Thrillist, Smithsonian Magazine, Washington City Paper, New York Magazine, Business Insider

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