What is a Speakeasy?

What is a Speakeasy

A speakeasy is an illegal drinking establishment that became popular during the Prohibition Era of the early 1900s. The modern-day speakeasy is legal, but they succeed in giving people a unique illicit bar adventure of the 1920s. The owners transform their bars using traditional decor, classic music, and various drinks to provide an original illegal speakeasy experience.

If you want a different experience from the typical bar scene, then a speakeasy in NYC is the ideal place to visit. These modern-day speakeasies still serve your favorite cocktails and mixed drinks while providing excellent entertainment.

But, what precisely is a speakeasy? When and how did it start and why was it given that name? These are the speakeasy questions we will be answering today, and later recommended one of the best speakeasies in New York to visit.

Speakeasy Definition

A speakeasy is a place where people in the early 1900s went to drink, contrary to the government’s law that banned the sale of alcohol. Speakeasies allowed people to defy prohibition on intoxicating liquor by buying it illegally. This shift caused the government tax revenue to plummet and brought about the rise of the underground economy.

Speakeasies were also called blind tigers or blind pigs. These names came about because many illegal alcohol establishments would sell tickets for an opportunity to see unusual animals, such as a blind tiger, but in exchange for their money, they received a drink. Some other less verifiable stories believed that these names meant that people were given cheap drinks that made them blind drunk.

In New York, speakeasies were considered more high-end than blind pigs because they included entertainment, food, dancing, and a selection of drinks. Modern-day speakeasies, such as Arthur’s Tavern, maintain the original speakeasy experience that gives you an all-around experience of the early 1900s.

Speakeasy Definition

Speakeasy History

Speakeasy fame in the United States grew during the Prohibition Era of the 1920s to 1933. It was illegal to produce, transport, or sell alcohol during that time. The prohibition merged with other movements like the temperance movement, which campaigned to save grain during World War I. These changes brought about the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale of intoxicating liquors.

Speakeasies emerged after this nationwide ban where people set up secret bars to serve alcohol. These illegal drinking establishments were set up behind a legal front shop or in the basement of a building. People discovered a speakeasy near them through word of mouth and had various requirements for entry. For instance, some speakeasies only allowed people they knew. Some needed passwords, while others required a speakeasy card.

The New York Historical Society estimates that there were between 20,000 to 100,000 speakeasies in New York during the Prohibition Era. A typical prohibited speakeasy in New York was mostly filled with young people and women dressed as flappers (women who rebelled against the norm, dressed in short dresses and kept short hair). The original speakeasies disappeared after the prohibition law was repealed in February of 1933 under the 21st Amendment.

Why Is It Called a Speakeasy?

The British first used the phrase speakeasy to refer to a “speak softly shop,” which described a smuggler’s home. The term later changed to “speakeasy shop” to denote places where people sold illegal alcohol to the public. The idea behind the name was that bar owners told people to speakeasy to avoid attracting attention and being found by law enforcement officers. The customers had to keep the noise down or “speakeasy.” 

The phrase speakeasy emerged in the United States in the 1880s to refer to a saloon that sold liquor without a license. During the Prohibition Era, speakeasy became a common name for an illegal bar. Sometimes speakeasies owners added phrases like speakeasy lounges and speakeasy clubs to attract more customers. 

Speakeasies had other names as a cover, and they existed as part of restaurants, hotels, and other legal shops. They used different mechanisms such as doorbells and spotlights to alert members of an impending raid, allowing customers to leave through the back or transform the place into a legal club. 

Visit Our Speakeasy in New York

Although the Prohibition Era ended, the allure of speakeasies has remained. Arthur’s Tavern in New York offers our customers the speakeasy experience that allows them to enjoy the Prohibition Era of the 1920s legally and harmlessly. 

Our establishment bears a similar resemblance to the original speakeasies. You are assured of having a spectacular time with your friends, colleagues, or family. Whether you are in the mood for whiskey, classic cocktails, or craft beer, or you want to listen to magnificent jazz and blues, our modern-day speakeasy will give you the full speakeasy experience of the 1900s.