I recently stumbled upon a list of “speakeasies” that exist in Seattle. I use the term lightly as the fact that they were published on a list probably disqualifies the bars as real speakeasies. But my ideal bar would feel like a speakeasy: it would be dimly lit (so I don’t have to worry about what my face looks like on that particular day), not many people would know about it, and it would be hidden away from the general public, so I knew I would be paying every one of them a visit.
One of my favorite ones which I repeat visits to frequently is called Bathtub Gin. The thought of gin actually made/stored in a bathtub grossed me out, but I figured it was booze, so even if that’s how it worked, surely the germs would be killed. I put the address into my phone (as that is the only way I know how to function), and it led me to a different bar entirely. I figured part of the allure of a speakeasy would be that it was difficult to find, so I was in for a challenge. But we live in the age of the internet, so I read some yelp reviews and discovered it was down an alley. I apologize, as I figure my use of yelp was caused the original speakeasy owners from the past to roll in their graves.
I turned the corner, saw a deserted expanse with a ton of overflowing dumpsters. It was a place where clearly nothing good was going to happen, so I almost turned away. That is until I saw a man dressed in a very nice suit and expensive shoes leaning against a wall in said sketchy alley. I figured men wearing Prada suits don’t frequent dark alleys, so he must be the bouncer. Either that or he was a drug lord, waiting to beat the shit out of someone who double-crossed him. I figured a man wearing expensive shoes wouldn’t be getting involved in any situation where he would get blood on them, so he at least had the upper hand in whatever was about to happen. What can I say, my kryptonite is some cool shoes. I was drawn to them like a moth to a flame, thinking, surely I can trust a man with such sweet kicks.
I approached the guy and spotted the door to the bar next to him, so I vetoed the idea that he was involved in something shady. I smiled as I walked up, wondering how hard it would be to get inside. He did not smile back at me. Then a concerned look crossed my face as I thought to myself, “What if I have to do something special to get in here, like be cool enough, and I just blew it by being openly giddy about getting inside those doors?” I handed him my ID, and he glared at it for a long time, as if deciding whether I was worthy of entering the building.
I get uncomfortable in long silences, so I tend to make light conversation to try and help me read someone a little bit better. I said, “This place sure is tricky to find.” A guy like him was too cool to talk about the weather. He looked at me, and back down at my ID, as if there was a question that I’m pushing 30, and responded, “That’s the point.”
I gulped, knowing I would surely be turned away. Then he handed me my license and opened the door, saying, “There’s two seats up at the bar.” I had dragged a friend along with me because I had figured there was a high likelihood of getting mixed up in the wrong business down a dark alley looking for a weird bar, and two people were harder to take down than one. We walked up to the bar, and ordered some complicated and delicious cocktails in the bar that was two levels, and probably is at capacity at about 30 people, even with its two floors.
It was everything I dreamed of: dark, quaint, tiny, cozy, and poured a mean drink. As my friend and I started talking, the bartender took a shine to us, kept checking up on us, and “accidentally” refilled my empty glass with champagne a few times. I wondered how he knew the way to my heart was free champagne, but I attributed it to the fact that the dim light made me look a lot better looking than I actually am. My friend and I were also cracking him up with our conversation, so that definitely helped our reputation in this place.
I decided that my inherent ability to be uncool was weirdly gaining me acceptance here. I now considered it my personal challenge to be a regular at this place. I knew it would be a rough road, but I was determined to make it happen.
I went to meet a group of people at Bathtub Gin a few weeks later. The same bouncer was outside, and this time around I knew not to smile, but keep my resting bitch face plastered on until I got in the door. I walked inside and struggled to find a table. There were no seats at the bar, and my favorite, free-flowing champagne bartender wasn’t there either. I sighed as I now had to start from square one.
I knew my friends would have to wait outside until the bouncer would let them in, but I asked the waitress if I was able to secure a bigger space if she would be cool with that kind of a thing. She was accommodating, but made no promises to get them inside and informed me that it was first come, first serve. I was nice and explained that I completely understood. That’s when the bouncer came inside to find me.
I started sweating, as he is the type of guy who is naturally intimidating. I had yet to crack him and make him like me. I figured I was about to get the boot for being too needy and causing too much stress on the inside, and he was going to kick me out for upsetting the speakeasy mentality.
Instead he asked my friends names and where I wanted to sit in the room that was clearing out. I described them to him, gave him their info, and told him I’d gladly sit wherever the hell he wanted me to. All I wanted to do was make this guy happy so that I could come back. I think he appreciated my flexibility, or else he found the stress-sweating that he brought out in me endearing. He let my friends in quickly, and we had a great night there.
As we left, I wanted to find him at the door and thank him for all of his help and let him know I appreciated him. But obviously blubbering a thank you like a fool in front of a long line of people would ruin my cool. So I walked out the door, made eye contact with him, nodded and waved, and said, “Thanks! Have a great night!” I watched as a miracle happened. He got a huge grin on his face, waved back and told me to have a great night.
I considered it a step in the right direction. I’m certainly not on a first name basis with him or the bartender, but soon enough, I plan for this place to be my little version of Cheers, and I’ll be damned if everyone doesn’t know my name.