Bars concealed inside coffee shops and barbershops, we’re used to those.
That contemporary take on the speakeasy has been around for a while. Now, bars inside bars… that’s a touch odder. It’s somewhat like a Russian nesting doll, except with a room of people (drinking) inside a room of people (drinking).
This very meta trend is happening from coast to coast. Here are five hot spots from East to West that are embracing the concept, finding that clientele enjoys the intimacy, the exclusivity, and the mystery factor of the high-end scene.
Inside The Happiest Hour: Slowly Shirley
Jon Neidich and Jim Kearns own The Happiest Hour on NYC’s West 10th Street. Pop in below the art deco locale, and you’ll find Slowly Shirley. With its Hollywood Golden Age feel, Slowly Shirley takes a step back into the 1940s, where the the atmosphere simmered with glamor and the cocktails brimmed with elegance.
Like the theme of the bar, the cocktail menu keeps it classic with a squeeze of contemporary. “Our cocktail program features original drinks, created by my staff and I, as well as contemporary classics, created by our friends,” says Kearns.
“Our multi-faceted take on the classics allows our guests to really experience their favorite drinks in new ways. For example, Martini lovers will be able to leisurely amble their way through the Martinez, Obituary, Turf Club and Astoria cocktails to experience the family ties that bind these drinks and see how they’ve influenced today’s bartenders.”
Inside Tanner Smith’s: The Winona Room
Started by native Manhattanite Andrew Schulman, Tanner Smith’s draws its inspiration from the early 20th century and Marginal Gang leader, Tanner Smith. A key figure in the bootlegger scene of the prohibition era, he briefly ran a joint called Winona Club in 1910. He eventually turned his life around and became an upstanding citizen, his Robin Hood ways inspiring lovers of New York City history.
Step underneath Tanner Smith’s main room, and enter the Winona Room, where treasured cocktails are the key attraction. The Winona Room captures an intimacy that is both high end and underground. Its comfortable corners and veiled nooks convey the cagey exclusivity of the prohibition era. Summarizing peoples’ reactions, Schulman observes,
“Once led down the stairs to the subterranean bar within a bar, people love the feel of being a part of nightlife history.”
Inside Dalva: The Hideout
Dalva was established in San Francisco back in 1993 and has been a steady attraction ever since, garnering a reputation for its casual setting and great selection of beers. But step into its backroom, The Hideout, and there you’ll find a space dedicated to higher echelon cocktails.
The Hideout offers artisanal libations, as well as a selection of hard to find independent liquors. Managing Partner Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud opened the second room in 2009, in lieu of starting a completely new bar for bespoke cocktails. He notes,
“The customer reaction has been great and The Hideout has been going strong since it opened almost six years ago. It is a great place to grab an excellent drink while still being able to do it in a casual atmosphere, with good music and no theme or carnival ride vibe.”
Inside Seven Grand Whiskey Bar: Bar Jackalope
Exclusive gets more exclusive at the secret within Seven Grand Whiskey Bar, Bar Jackalope. The brainchild of Cedd Moses’ acclaimed nightlife group 213 Ventures, Seven Grand Whiskey Bar already offered downtown Los Angeles an elite ambiance to sip on fine spirits. Inspired by Japan’s welcoming yet refined whiskey bars, Seven Grand converted its back room into Bar Jackalope in 2013, bringing that elegant trend to the other side of the Pacific.
What strikes clients is its subdued sophistication, intimate space (capacity at 18 visitors) and meticulous commitment to whiskey. For whiskey aficionados, this place is a dream. Prices are high, but they meet high expectations. Coolest perk: for a fee, the venue offers Whiskey Locker Cabinets, where regular customers can store their bottles. Seven Grand general manager Andrew Abrahamson explains,
“Our goal was to create a bar that is a complementary opposite of Seven Grand’s bustling experience. Bar Jackalope is the place to sit, sip, and learn about whiskey at your own pace.”
Inside The Normandie Club: The Walker Inn
Clearly, 213 Ventures has a penchant for the bars inside bars concept, as evidenced by their other Los Angeles gem, The Walker Inn. This venue is like a gift in a gift, in yet another gift. The Walker Inn is nestled in the The Normandie Club, which is in Hotel Normandie. Search for the secret door inside the dimly lit, leather and wood décor of The Normandie Club, and there you will find the whimsical Walker Inn.
With tiny, detailed cocktails and a hush-hush tone, the environment begins to feel like Alice’s Wonderland (for grownups). Katie Emmerson, the lead bartender, speaks to the eclectic ambiance when she observes,
“I feel like at The Walker Inn we try to keep it a cross between mysterious and playful. I mean, our door is labeled with a plaque stating ‘Secret Door’ – it lightens the mood a little! We know you know… But at the same time there is a lot of curiosity and anticipation behind what happens when you push the button and are let into a room you can’t initially see into.”