While in San Francisco I had the opportunity to go out to a number of new places. Let’s face it, when you are abroad for 1 ½ years, everything is new to you. When my friend David mentioned going to a speakeasy, I was confused; did I hear him correctly – a speakeasy?
He quickly got on his iphone and started surfing the web. A few minutes later he showed me the screen which read,
Your password is sugardaddy
“Remember that password” he said. “I made a reservation for 9:30.”
“Ummm, ok. ” I replied a bit confused.
As we hung out and waited for our 9:30 reservation, he told me about the new speakeasy in San Francisco. ‘New’ and ‘speakeasy’ didn’t really seem to belong together in 2010, but I had been living outside of the US for a while, so maybe this wasn’t as strange as it sounded.
Apparently this secretive place had a lot of rules and some really strong drinks. You could only get in with the password (which thanks to a computer algorithm was constantly changed) and you could get inside only at the prescribed reservation time. I was intrigued. I love new takes on the old (i.e. Shirley Bassey – The Remix Album… Diamonds Are Forever CD); modern technology meets old ways of doing things. That’s why I loved this idea of a speakeasy with web access. The only way you could make a reservation and get a password was by going to their website as a member and filling out the appropriate info. They generated a password and electronically provided it to you. A far cry from the 1920’s; but a really cool take on an old way of doing something.
We hurried through the dimly lit streets of the Tenderloin neighborhood to a big wooden door with a silver button and intercom. The building had no windows and it looked extremely plain which made it blend in with the surrounding dismal buildings. We rang the bell and you could hear a little electronic buzzer go off inside. A little window peephole opened up and two eyes were staring back at us.
“What’s the password?” the eyes said
“Sugardaddy” I said
The window peephole closed, we heard a lock turn, and the door opened…we were in!
Inside it was dark with burgundy and wood décor giving it a warm, old feeling. Old chandeliers hung from the ceiling and little intimate booths lined the walls with individual lamps creating a soft glow on each table. The music was crackly jazz with piano accompaniment. The atmosphere was clandestine and the place oozed character.
The rules were posted on the wall and went something like this:
No using cell phones
No speaking loudly
No standing around the bar
…and that’s honestly all I could remember since I was not allowed to use my cell phone or camera to take notes of the rest!
The waitress took us to a booth and provided us with a menu that resembled a novel. There was a modern twist on old liquors making reading the menu a pleasure; I never knew that bourbon could be used in so many ways! The waitress was dressed in a funky 1920’s hat with a feather in it and called everyone ‘friends’. She brought us over a small champagne cocktail while we looked over the extensive drink menu; she knew that it may take a while for us to decide. Eventually she sauntered over and asked, “Friends, what can I get you tonight?”
As we sat and sipped our strong bourbon drinks from martini glasses, I noticed a waitress take a group of people through the bookshelf behind our booth. Yes, that’s right; this speakeasy even had hidden rooms. If one were to move the book on the shelf just right, the shelf opened up to a door and led you into yet another bar area.
In some weird way I felt like I was in an adult Disneyland. Someone had meticulously created this environment as a very authentic step back into time. I felt as if I were in another world; a foreign experience in my own country. But it wasn’t foreign from a culture standpoint, it was foreign from a history standpoint which is what really made it unique to me.
I can hardly wait to log into the website, get another password, and go back again next time I’m in San Francisco. Now, you may be wondering why I haven’t told you the name of the place or the location….duh…it’s a secret! Unless of course you provide me the secret password in the comments below…then I might give up the location!