Yeah, they’re a little theme park–esque. But altogether they attract, because they deliver the thrill of exclusivity without fear of rejection.
Some people trace the genesis of the genre back to Angel’s Share. The classic cocktail joint, which opened in 1994, offered an old-time oasis amidst the ravers, glow sticks, and electronic music that dominated Manhattan’s bar scene at the time. Others credit Sasha Petraske, who now operates three speakeasy-style places in New York City. His first and most infamous, Milk & Honey, requires that patrons call ahead for a table. Which can be tricky, considering the bar’s number is unlisted—and gets disconnected when somebody posts it online.
And somebody always does. In the age of the Internet, no secret bar is secret for long.
Here is CHOW’s guide to the fake-underground world of not-actually-prohibited drinking establishments.
Photographs by Joshua Lutz