Ironically famed the world over for its concealed location down a few stairs, inside a hotdog shop and through a telephone booth, PDT is a genre classic that first opened in 2007 ahead of NYC’s last speakeasy-style bar revival. Although, as proprietor Jeff Bell points out, many newly minted drinkers may have never actually used a telephone booth, all the bells and whistles are a reminder of a time when this city really committed to a bit. It's also cozy and comfortable as a rich guy’s hunting lodge, and the drinks best in class, so prepare to wait for entry. Most nights, it seems like a job for Superman.
Although 2022 wrought quite the resurgence, the last of New York City’s real-deal speakeasies ceased operation in 1933. That’s the year prohibition ended, and once that odd bit of wise legislation managed to pass, in spite of hidden entrances, decoys, and hooch-obscuring levers and pulleys, wowie-zowie, all those gin joints turned into bars!
Some of those bars, like 21 Club, remained open in various forms for many more years. Any place popping up in the interim is simply speakeasy-inspired. These newcomers aim to approximate Jazz Age style absent its inconvenient trappings. See, just like we wouldn’t take a suborbital flight and call it space travel, we can’t really say we fully comprehend the sights, smells, tastes and heartbeat of erstwhile speakeasies.
But we do go to a lot of bars, and plenty of those are rather convincingly fashioned after speakeasies, but with better booze (fewer errant pest particles), improved air quality (no smoking), and modern conveniences like online reservation platforms, air conditioning and mobile payments to follow up with the moochers in the group. Some have circa (19)20s details for days and others would make a dramaturg’s stomach turn, but their semi-hidden entrances, Old New York decor and appearance of exclusivity are almost enough to make us feel like we’re about to light up a Chesterfield, sip some cold clear liquor and–what?–oh, we’ll Venmo you later.
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