fbpx

These days, any vaguely old-timey watering hole where a bartender in an apron and arm garters takes 20 minutes to make you a $14 drink fancies itself a “speakeasy.” But the origins of the term are far more specific. During Prohibition, when consumption of “intoxicating liquors” was banned, a speakeasy was a hidden bar that required a membership card, a password or both to enter, in order to keep the cops, G-men and Anti-Saloon League zealots at bay. Few bars in L.A. ever operated during Prohibition as actual speakeasies, but the Del Monte Speakeasy, tucked away in the basement of the Townhouse bar in Venice, is one of them. Back then, what is now the Townhouse was a grocery store, and the Del Monte was a dimly lit dungeon of smuggled hooch, accessible only via trapdoor. Today you can take the stairs, and the vibe is considerably less illicit — though the room's low ceilings and antique wallpaper still give it the feel of a Boardwalk Empire set, especially when it's hosting a jazz or burlesque night.