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July 17, 2009

Baltimore needs a speakeasy

speakeasyYes, I know, Baltimore already has a spot called Speakeasy (pictured).

I'm talking about the real thing.

Speakeasies are all the rage in New York and a few other major cities.

I saw a TV show about one speakeasy in New York where you walk into a phonebooth in a hot dog shop, pick up the phone and a hostess from the speakeasy opens a secret door on the inside of the phone booth to let you in.

That. Is. Awesome. ...

You know, the 13th Floor might make a good Speakeasy. They could put a bellman by the elevator, and you'd have to tell him to buzz you up to the 13th Floor. Then, once you got up there, they could have the entrance more enclosed, with another host waiting by the elevator to let you in.

I think Mark Twain and I talked about that possibility some months ago.

Either way, I'd love to see a speakeasy in Baltimore, and I'm wondering what other bars could be converted into Speakeasies, or have rooms that could be made into speakeasies.

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:31 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Melba's Place on Greenmount is a speak easy.

Well I guess we know who isn't hip enough to know about the Baltimore speakeasy ...

Any place with an unused second or third floor could be converted into a Speakeasy. That would be an awesome idea until everybody found out about it and it would become so popular and then a bunch of kids would ruin it.

I've got a better idea. I've been to bars in the mid-west that were a mixture between a movie theater and a bar. (More bar than movie theater). Late night "Slapstick" and half priced Resurrections would be much more awesome.

How about the Spy Club? They'd just have to keep the door closed.

How about the Spy Club in Mount Vernon? It does/did have the bookcase entrance from the Yacht Club.

they call it please don't tell for a reason

Now you're on the trolley!

Sam, what do you mean you watched a TV show? I told you about PDT over a year ago; even offered to make you a res there, Death & Company, Milk & Honey and Pegu Club. PDT is the side-project of Brain who owns Criff Dogs on St. Marks in the East Village. If you're familiar with the East Village, it's right next to Australian Homemade (a local ice cream haunt).

The closest 'speakeasy' (the way you define it) is PX in Virginia. Some would say The Gibson in DC would qualify (side project of 18th Street Lounge), but they half-assed it in my opinion. Actually, there is a former speakeasy (a real one) for sale now on Mulberry St.

I heard a rumor that there a lounge is opening in Mt. Vernon before New Year’s that will be bringing these drinks to Baltimore. Homemade bitters, syrups, sodas. Three types of triple-filtered ice, etc. There’s a bit of buzz already building about this place.

Calling these places speakeasies is disingenuous at least. These bars aren't gimmicks, which calling them speakeasies implies. It’s simply about making quality, handcrafted cocktails. This is how bars were operated prior to prohibition. People call them speakeasies, because the places have to be small. It takes upwards of 5-7 min. just to make a drink. They are small and private because they can't handle the capacity, and there isn't a way of producing these drinks on a larger scale without sacrificing quality.

PX on King St. in Old Town Alexandria is one I've been by a few times but never went in. It's above Eamonn's and owned by the same people. They have a pirate flag that flies above Eamonn's when they're open and also have a blue light by the entrance door on when open. They even open the grate to look out to let you in when you buzz/knock.


PX only takes one visit and you're hooked. Todd makes some amazing drinks. It's worth the visit.

As a VA native, I have been there many times. I have yet to see Mr. Thrasher there. I was told by Clinton and Sebastian that Todd does not tend there. You must have been very lucky to have him behind the stick.


Todd mostly does consulting, but I make a point to go whenever he is working on new drinks.

I guess you're not moving in the right circles to know about the Baltimore speakeasies. They wouldn't be interesting to you or your friends anyway since they don't have TV's blaring sporting events all over the room, happy hour drink specials, chicken fingers or microbrew beer. Oh and they also aren't in your trendy little neighborhoods, so you wouldn't go anyway. I mean you guys have four areas you'll go and that's it. Yawn.

Baltimore has had Speakeasies forever, and they really dont cater to the Federal Hill/Canton/Fells/Station North (whatever that new neighborhood name is supposed to mean) crowd. The idea behind them is to keep the people who think the idea is "way cool" from entering. They are basically clubs (in the real sense, not the drugged, hipster style-whore party people sense) that have very discriminating rules regarding who is allowed in.

Most of them are gone now, but I can think of three remaining speakeasies off the top of my head in this town. I often recall of one excellent speakeasy in Baltimore, unfortunately closing long ago. It was the only one left that was an original speakeasy continuously from the 1920's and never went public. Music was from a piano player and there was no other light in the room than a dim lamp on top of the piano. It was incredible.


I know you're important.

Perhaps people are reluctant to speak about illegal operations on a forum commonly contributed to by members of the liquor board and various other state and city government agencies.

There are a few speakeasies in Baltimore, sure, but they are just underground bars. We're talking about establishments that create handcrafted cocktails. You know, the kind Miss Irene's promised to deliver prior to their reopening, but forgot you have to –learn- how to make drinks before you can serve them. What a disaster that experiment was.

Bad Decisions makes interesting drinks, but once again, not even in the same ballpark.

There are none of these places in Baltimore, period. End of discussion.

The closest handcrafted cocktail you're going to get in Baltimore is at The Maryland Club, and only if a particular bartender is working, and only if it is slow.

Mark Twain,

You need to get out more and educate yourself. Nothing I said has anything to do with self-importance, so don't embarass yourself with your lame attempts to get under my skin.

No one said anything about an illegal operation. There's a big difference between a club with a selective clientelle and a bar that locks it's doors at 2 am. All the speakeasies I know of, or ever knew of in this town, are empty by midnight. Nothing in the least is illegal about it. I didn't feel that needed explanation but I guess I was wrong.

I do agree with you on one thing, though-- Miss Irene's, in its current incarnation, is a joke. I still shed the occasional tear for that old hovel I used to drink in.


Speakeasy [speek-ee-zee] (noun) – A saloon or nightclub selling alcoholic beverages illegally, especially during Prohibition.

“I guess you’re not moving in the right circles to know about the Baltimore speakeasies…” reaks of self-importance. Not to mention, that these circles exist only in that cluttered vortex you call a mind.

Perhaps you should stay in more and educate yourself with a dictionary. ‘Speakeasy’ is a noun, not an adjective, and shouldn’t be used as such. Social clubs and members’ only clubs are not speakeasies; so why refer to them as something they aren’t?

There are two acceptable definitions of Speakeasy. The first, and most commonly interpreted, is a bar that sells alcoholic beverages without a license to do so: an illegal bar. The second, and more recently introduced to our lexicon, is a licensed, legitimate venue that only serves ‘pre-prohibition’ cocktails.

Neither of which are applicable to your usage.

As a courtesy, I have provided both a Wikipedia and Webster link so you can better familiarize yourself with its definition and proper usage.

-(Wikipedia) -
-(Webster) -

“No one said anything about an illegal operation. There's a big difference between a club with a selective clientele and a bar that locks its doors at 2 am...” – Johnnycake

Yes, there are differences between the two, but they have similarities too. For starters, neither is a speakeasy.

In the future, please don’t embarrass yourself with, how did you put it? Oh yeah, “lame attempts to get under my skin” with your less-than-pithy retorts, when you clearly lack the substantive knowledge necessary for proper opination.

Mark Twain,

You defined speakeasy for us all as such:

"Speakeasy [speek-ee-zee] (noun) – A saloon or nightclub selling alcoholic beverages illegally."

My apologies-- I didn't realize that Sam Sessa was endorsing the idea of operating an illegal place to drink in Baltimore. I really cannot comment on that, and I think this town has enough holes in the wall to drink in, but perhaps Mr. Sessa thinks Baltimore needs an illegal type of establishment for his own reasons, I really don't know.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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