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4 Hotels Offering Speakeasy-Style Spaces for Groups

Alphonse Bar at The Westin Lima Luxury Hotel & Convention Center, Peru

Over a century ago, when Prohibition took effect on January 17, 1920, thousands of formerly legal bars and saloons almost always catering only to men were forced to close their doors as the country attempted to put an end to alcohol consumption. Those looking for a drink had few options for buying liquor, according to The Mob Museum: turning to licensed druggists for “medicinal purposes,” clergymen for “religious reasons” or befriending a bootlegger. 

Then came speakeasies, or private, unlicensed barrooms and establishments that illegally sold alcoholic beverages. These illicit bars could often only be accessed with a special, quietly spoken password (hence the term “speakeasy,” which also came from the need for patrons to talk quietly while inside to avoid getting caught by law enforcement). 

Throughout the 1920s, speakeasies began popping up across the country. (According to Brittanica, there were an estimated 20,000-100,000 speakeasies in New York City alone!) The establishments, also referred to as “blind pigs” or “gin joints,” ranged from modest basement- and backroom-setups and spare rooms in private residences to glamorous nightclubs with jazz bands and ballroom dancing. 

With the creation of speakeasies also came the possibility for men and women to drink together following years of social segregation. This shift in the 1920s social scene caused changes that, according to Brittanica, “continued after the end of Prohibition and paved the way for modern nightlife.” 

More than 100 years later, history seems to be repeating itself at these hotels offering new or recently renovated speakeasy-themed spaces, making it easy for groups to take a step back in time to the 1920s.

Potter’s Bar at Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel 

Prohibition painted a colorful history for itself in Chicago. The city served as a major center of bootlegging and organized crime during the era, giving rise to American gangsters like Al Capone and his rivals as they spearheaded Chicago’s multimillion-dollar bootlegging operation. 

Potter’s Bar at Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel
Potter’s Bar at Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel 

While Chicago may not have had as many speakeasies as New York City during the Prohibition era, it certainly saw its fair share of secret spaces tucked away in corners of the city. (It’s been estimated that Chicago had as many as 3,000 speakeasies by the time Congress repealed the 18th amendment in 1933, and a few still stand today!)

One iconic Chicago establishment that’s been around long enough to have seen Chicago during the Prohibition era is the 150-plus-year-old Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel.

Dating back to 1871, the Palmer House stands today as America’s longest operating hotel and is inviting guests to immerse themselves in its century’s-worth of history with the recent debut of its new speakeasy-inspired bar and lounge, Potter’s Bar. 

Opened in April, Potter’s Bar pays tribute to the notorious Prohibition era and its impact on Chicago, as well as the hotel’s own historic connections to the famed period. The bar takes on the form of a sophisticated lounge, drawing inferences to the city’s real speakeasy scene throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. 

Palmer House also took inspiration from its own ties to the Prohibition era, paying homage to its system of underground tunnels (now closed) that once were utilized for secret liquor transportation. 

Potter’s Bar is outfitted in maroon and gold hues and juxtaposing modern design elements with vintage decor. The space features rotating Prohibition-era photographs set under mood lighting to provide a glimpse into the bygone era.

Potter’s Bar invites guests to imbibe on signature three- to five-ingredient cocktails that embody the simplicity and glamour of the 1920s, with highlights including the Aviation, Chicago Fizz and Whiskey Smash. The bar also serves light, shareable bites like the Potter Palmer Charcuterie Board; Potter’s Sliders, featuring a bacon jam, aged white cheddar and “secret” sauce; and Spicy Tots, with queso blanco, beef birria and lime crema. 

Potter’s Bar at the Palmer House is available for semi-private events and buyouts. The upper section of the bar can be activated for semi-private dining for up to 25 people, and the bar can be subdivided to accommodate groups of various sizes.

[Related: Massive MidAmerica Convention Center Expansions and Chicago's New Speakeasy-Themed Bar]

Sinatra Room at The Drake Oak Brook, Autograph Collection
Sinatra Room at The Drake Oak Brook, Autograph Collection

Sinatra Room at The Drake Oak Brook, Autograph Collection

Not far from the Palmer House in the Western Suburbs of Chicago is The Drake Oak Brook, Autograph Collection, an English-style hideaway just outside of the city that has hosted legendary groups from Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack to members of the British royal family. 

The 154-room hotel was originally commissioned in 1962 as an extension of a downtown Chicago hotel and was designed to offer a timeless European style and inviting atmosphere that can still be experienced at the property today. 

The Drake Oak Brook offers more than 12,000 square feet of flexible indoor event space, including the hidden and recently renovated Sinatra Room, a speakeasy-style venue with plush velvet loungers, old-school board games and a gramophone record player.

The Sinatra Room is fitted to serve as a fully functioning speakeasy-style bar for groups of up to 70 and is often used for hosting private reading parties and lively book discussions. Groups can choose their own book or be inspired by the Sinatra Room’s collection of past presidents’ favorite books, from a James Bond-esque mystery beloved by JFK to a historical classic that impacted Jimmy Carter.

With a full bar for private cocktail service, the intimate and moody speakeasy is an ideal space for themed group gatherings. 

[Related: New Illinois Hotels and an Ohio Renovation (October, 2022)]

Yours Truly at AC Hotel by Marriott Honolulu
Yours Truly at AC Hotel by Marriott Honolulu

Yours Truly at AC Hotel by Marriott Honolulu

Earlier this year, AC Hotel by Marriott Honolulu introduced three new and distinct food and beverage experiences, including Yours Truly, an underground bar and lounge with a hidden speakeasy. 

Guests and groups staying at the 112-room boutique hotel who are “seeking the unexpected” will appreciate Yours Truly, where they can sip on an adventurous cocktail amid an eclectic design that pays homage to the historic space on property (which once served the area as a satellite post office and taboo print shop during the Prohibition era). 

Yours Truly at AC Hotel by Marriott Honolulu
Yours Truly at AC Hotel by Marriott Honolulu

A hidden door at Yours Truly (Hint: Look for the postal wall!) leads to an underground clandestine tiki-speakeasy, complete with a thatched-bamboo ceiling, never-before-seen collectibles and illuminant sea glass lanterns revealing a commissioned ghost mural called Yours Truly by Scott Allred.

“Over 100 years ago, a group of renegades arrived in Hawai'i. These mavericks created an unexpected global sensation: the island postcards,” said Hayato Nogaki, general manager of AC Hotel by Marriott Honolulu. “In the heart of the AC Honolulu location, James Stiner created the Island Curio Company, selling island postcards. Inspired by the history of the building, our brand story connects past with present to create an ode to a classic.

“Through interviews and research, we re-envisioned the original space,” Nogaki continued. “The front bar is a tribute to the classically buttoned-up curio storefront from the ’20s, and the back is where an obsession with Hawaiiana delves into musing wonderment.”

Revitalized with lush interiors, vintage textiles and a reimagined bar, Yours Truly aims to reflect “the DNA of speakeasy culture,” offering a sense of distinction, unique connections, thoughtfully crafted and high-quality culinary experiences, and intimate encounters with immersive entertainment.

Thematic cocktails are served through a secret portal called “The Post Order” and stemmed in exclusive mai tai and zombie glassware, and the bar, lounge and speakeasy also offers small, shareable plates. Unique activations at Yours Truly include artist performances, comedy nights, karaoke, sketch culture doodle pads and an interactive AI photo booth. 

Yours Truly is available for private and semi-private events for up to 60 guests. The bar’s back speakeasy-style room can accommodate up to 25 while the front bar can accommodate up to 35. The speakeasy can be rented as a private room, or groups can buy out the entire space and enjoy a karaoke machine, photo booth and specialty cocktails.

[Related: Newly Opened Unique Meeting Spaces Across California, Hawai'i, and Mexico]

Alphonse Bar at The Westin Lima Luxury Hotel & Convention Center, Peru
Alphonse Bar at The Westin Lima Luxury Hotel & Convention Center, Peru

Alphonse Bar at The Westin Lima Luxury Hotel & Convention Center, Peru

The Westin Lima Luxury Hotel & Convention Center, located in San Isidro (the financial center of Lima), offers 301 guest rooms and suites and the largest convention center in Peru, with over 49,000 square feet of event space and 19 venues. 

Alphonse Bar at The Westin Lima Luxury Hotel & Convention Center, Peru
Alphonse Bar at The Westin Lima Luxury Hotel & Convention Center, Peru

The property is also home to Alphonse Bar, “an ode to the mystery and seduction of the Prohibition era” and inspired by the life of the famed Alphonse “Al” Capone. The speakeasy-style bar allows guests to escape back in time to experience the glamour of 1920s America and, upon opening to the public in 2023, became the only speakeasy located in a five-star hotel in Peru.

The door to Alphonse Bar is tucked away in the hotel lobby, and the speakeasy requires a password for entry. Just inside is a luxurious space that takes guests back to the Prohibition era, with gilded decor and elaborate hanging prints glowing under mood lighting.

The space is complete with a black-and-white photo of Capone hanging over the bar area and one of his quotes lit up in neon hanging on the wall: “Be careful who you call your friends.”

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Taylor Smith | Content Developer, Destinations and Features

Taylor Smith joined Stamats in May 2022 as a content developer, destinations and features for Meetings Today. Smith has experience covering everything from travel to breaking news and graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in news and magazine journalism. Previously, she’s written for St. Louis Magazine and worked as an editorial assistant and apprentice for Aubree Nichols, who has been published in premier publications such as The New York TimesELLE and The Los Angeles Times.