GENIUS IDEAS, Part 2 – Speakin’ Easy
This is part two of Ashley Robinson’s series of genius ideas she thinks other people should act on so she can take the credit.
It’s so perfect: Sacramento, the California city known for its historic wild days, an underground old town and lots of backrooms to make those devious dark deals. Speakeasies are calling Sacramento’s name.
The catalyst to this blog is a recent experience at a fabulous cocktail-filled speakeasy evening while visiting Seattle at a private bar called the “Needle and Thread.” This place was awesome. It sat above a tavern in an enclosed loft that could only be accessed by a black safe (think a bank) door in the wall. To get buzzed in, you have to pick up an old-fashioned wall-mounted phone and tell them you are there for your reservation. That’s right, reservation only. This place does not suffer walk-ins.
The tiny chiffon padded-wall lounge softly lit like a 1920s boudoir sat about five small parties comfortably on vintage chaises and velvet chairs. We sat at the bar upon the invitation of the bartender. He could tell my husband and I meant business (and subsequently was asked to leave when our reservation time limit expired!). There was no cocktail menu, just a loose suggestion to the tender of what you preferred. You normally like a gin and tonic? This guy would make you a fancy spin-off.
In contrast, New York’s Back Door Lounge in the Lower East Side requires bar goers to practically crawl through a dark alleyway after descending some slippery sidewalk steps. The bar, which actually at one point was a real honest-to-goodness hideaway for moonshine sippers, is very darkly lit, serves specialty cocktails in tea cups to dissuade possible cops during a raid, and has a second secret door with a bouncer protecting the privacy of those worthy of passing through it.
It’s totally awesome.
Before you say, what about Shady Lady? Ok … I think the concept is outstanding. The drink and food menu is impressive. The décor is intriguing. The execution is lacking. A speakeasy, in theory, is to be intimate, not a giant noisy room that could easily transfer into a sports bar on the weekends. A speakeasy is supposed to have dark corners and focused service, not open red booths and long lines at the bar. Just because the lights are down doesn’t mean it’s mysterious. That being said, I do enjoy it as a weekend spot to hit.
In Sacramento, we have alley ways, darkly lit streets, old buildings that have been around forever with unapparent purposes and lots of politicos looking for attention. We have bartenders who know their stuff here in town – think Chris Tucker at L Bar. We have foodies who prize seclusivity – think The Kitchen. We have a history that makes a speakeasy story viable – think … well, there are lots of examples. You come up with one.
We need a speakeasy culture! I think Sacramento is up to the challenge. 😉