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Resurgence of Speakeasies

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Atlantic County Magazine – GACCA Article

Print Date 9.3.2021

By Judy Brenna

As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I sometimes look back and reflect on some of the biggest blunders in human history, like Prohibition. “Alcohol is the root of violence”, they said. “Alcohol will get you a one-way ticket to Satan’s front door”, they said. When the congressmen and senators were perched atop Capitol Hill, they had this glorious idea of how they were going to make this country a better ((albeit more puritan)) place. What they didn’t anticipate was the concept of the human condition. Think back to the first time someone said to you, “don’t look down”. Every fiber in your being wanted to defy that. So, when the government banned booze, the majority of human beings in the country couldn’t NOT look down. They wanted the hooch, all they could think about was the hooch, and they would find any means necessary to get it ((enter stage left all American Gangsters)). Now, as much as I would love to dive into the fact that the roaring 20’s is probably one of my most favorite eras, with the golden age of Hollywood, the birth of jazz, and the dawn of the flappers with their super sassy rouged knees and even sassier “girl power” mentality, and what I’d give to go on a long, drawn-out history lesson on the Prohibition Era (and the Depression), and how Atlantic City won the gold medal for illegal activities during Prohibition, I won’t. What I will say is how hilarious this whole rigmarole was. Hooey, I say. All these politicians did was create more havoc, crime, and violence ((chuckling)). Silly humans.

Another part of the human condition is nostalgia. We LOVE retro. We can’t get enough of rebirthing older eras, kind of like how the fashion industry is trying to bring back the 1990’s ((deep shudder)). One of the biggest resurgences of nostalgia right now is the concept of the speakeasy. When I think of a speakeasy, I instantly envision large secret doors, with gorilla-sized body guards behind a little slat in the door, necessitating secret passwords to enter rooms with plush, velvet embossed wall papers, mahogany bars, ornate, gilded light fixtures, women in flapper dresses and men with slicked hair and dressed in tails, super adorable glassware filled with even cooler cocktails like “The Bees Knees” or “The Last Word” or “The Side Car”, simple cocktails that packed a flavor punch ((they desperately needed strong mixers to mask the less than desirable flavors of questionably made booze)). It was a time of super-secret opulence and forbidden indulgence, and by far, one of the most fascinating eras. The government said, “nay, nay, nay” and the citizens literally said, “hold my beer”. What’s most exciting is the fact that over the last 10 years or so New Jersey has seen a rise in speakeasies, at first popping up all over North Jersey, but now we have some in our area.

A great place to start is Nucky’s Kitchen and Speakeasy on Ventnor Avenue, in the Ventnor Square Theatre. With their exposed brick and velvet curtains, this place is ((dare I say)) the bee’s knees. Nucky’s offers fun, comfort food, like their Drunken Mussels and Truffle Fries, and carefully crafted cocktails, served in crystal-cut glassware, like their Passionfruit Martini. If that’s not enough, they offer live entertainment almost every night they're open, serving up all kinds of acts and performers of all genres like jazz bands, comedians, and solo artists. This place is definitely a place to add to your “places to spend a night out on the town” list. When you call to make your reservation, tell them Nucky sent you ((insert wink emoji here)).

At the end of the boardwalk in Atlantic City you’ll find 1927 Lounge and Speakeasy, located inside the Ocean Casino Resort. Directly located off the casino floor, 1927 Lounge has a moody and musky retro-style vibe, with a cocktail menu that has a 1920’s pitch-perfect tune, with specialty cocktails like their Mickey Finn (Ketel One Botanical Peach, Orange Blossom Vodka and ginger beer), and the Getaway Car (Hennessy VSOP and Peach Schnapps) – both are potent and mouthwatering cocktail options. The only thing that rivals their super eclectic vibe and delicious cocktails is their entertainment roster. They have talented performers booked every night they’re open. You are guaranteed a good time here. Check them out.

If you’re looking for a true 1920’s Speakeasy Experience, there is only one place you can get this, and that’s Irish Pub and Inn on St. James Place. Irish Pub has THE most awesome nostalgic vibe, their décor frozen in time. Most of us know the history of this gem, but did you know during Prohibition, their main floor got raided so they moved their bar to the floors above? Guests would pretend to check in at the front desk and then “go upstairs to their rooms” when they were in actuality going upstairs to knock back a few, or five or ten. If you love history, and if you want to get the full Atlantic City Experience, go to Irish Pub. They deliver a consistently authentic and fun entertainment experience, consistently executed cuisine, and are staffed by friendly and well-trained employees. Check them out.

Man, do we love nostalgia and mystery ((setting down glass of peanut butter whiskey and Chambord)) and booze. What better place to fill all these cravings than a speakeasy? I would imagine other speakeasies may pop up in the not-so-distant future. Maybe just outside of Atlantic County. Maybe not. Even if it did happen it’d be a secret. And if you found out it’d be curtains for you, see? In the meantime, roll down your stockings, rouge those knees, break out the Dapper Dan, slap some grease on your hair, and go make your speakeasy reservation today, ((placing fedora on head, rolling back heavily padded shoulders, and sticking a stogie in mouth with a nod)), and tell them Judy sent ya.

Until next week, folks… #stayjerseystrong!

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