The 1920s was a decade of jazz, fringed dresses and merriment. However, the happy-go-lucky culture of the times was often overshadowed by Prohibition, a law passed by the United States government that forbade the sale of alcohol. Though the drink was banned, many citizens rebelled, creating underground bars hidden behind unassuming storefronts and protected with exclusive password entry. Although these bars known as speakeasies became obsolete when the ban on alcohol sales was lifted, their mystery and allure remained, creating a niche aesthetic that still draws in visitors today.
To experience a classic vibe from the 1920s, check out these three Memphis speakeasies that will be sure to make you fall in love with the culture of Memphis.
Blind Bear Speakeasy
Blind Bear Speakeasy is a Memphis cocktail bar designed to evoke the feel of a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Featuring pool and card tables and serving drinks in mason jars as a nod to the moonshiners of the ’20s, Blind Bear plays up the contemporary charm by providing the interior aesthetic of a cozy, old-style lounge for visitors. Though Blind Bear is designed to be more of a lounge than a restaurant, patrons who want to grab something to eat can partake in traditional Southern fare right in the heart of Memphis. The ever changing password to enter Blind Bear can be found on their Facebook page.
The Pocket Speakeasy
The Pocket is a Memphis speakeasy that combines a modernist aesthetic with the thrill of Prohibition-era secrecy and mystery. Though the interior is brightly lit and sleek, with high-contrast design and a spacious layout, it manages to evoke the feel of a traditional speakeasy with a false storefront and password access. The Pocket’s storefront is that of an upscale clothing shop called Tailor’s Union that masks its true business until visitors are inside. Once in,visitors are led around to the back by a host, where they have their pick of upstairs and downstairs bar space as well as a sofa lounge. Though The Pocket is a members-only club, it recently offered a public access period Aug. 24 through Sept. 13, and it may offer open-bar events in the future.
Dodici at Bari Ristorante
A classic speakeasy in every sense of the word, Dodici was designed to bring visitors back to the Jazz Age with everything from its management to its 1920s aesthetic. Hidden away above the Bari Ristorante on Cooper St., visitors are ushered through a secret door in the Bari’s enoteca, at which point they’re brought up a dimly lit stairwell to the small bar above the restaurant. Dodici was named for the number of people it can seat—a humble 12 at a time—which underscores its cozy and intimate nature.
Dodici is open later than the restaurant located below it, so call ahead if you plan on arriving late to ensure you know how to get in.
- Check out the Blind Bear special events calendar
- Learn more about new speakeasy The Pocket
- Visit the secret Dodici at Bari Ristorante
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