Password, Please: Speakeasy Craze Makes its Way to OBX
Speakeasies may have been a thing of the past, but their popularity hasn’t wavered on the restaurant scene – and the Outer Banks is no exception.
Grandstaff & Stein Book Sellers, which debuts this weekend with its official grand opening, is one of these modern-day speakeasies that on the surface looks like your typical throwback-to-the-1920s bookstore when you enter.
It’s anything but.
All you need to do once you arrive is whisper the night’s password to get past all the books and into the restaurant to enjoy a variety of delicious craft cocktails and fine dining… in roaring twenties style.
These secret bars that popped up all over the big cities during the Prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s are still thriving – except that now, well, they are legal.
The growing trend of speakeasies on the restaurant scene has likely been driven mostly by nostalgia and fun – and it “speaks” to many who’d like to get a little taste of what it was like to live in the days when alcohol consumption was taken underground.
The secret bars first began to proliferate with the passage of the National Prohibition Act by Congress in 1920. What followed was the heyday for speakeasies. While it’s not clear how they got their name, there are some theories.
“Although the exact origins of the term are unknown, it might have arisen because prospective patrons had to whisper – or “speak easy” – through a small opening in a door to enter the illegal establishments, providing the name of the person who had sent them,” according to the article Prohibition, Speakeasies and Finger Foods on history.com.
It’s estimated that for every legal salon that existed before probation, at least half a dozen speakeasies opened their doors during the era, reports theroaringtwentieshistory.com. Most of these were big cities in the northeast such as Chicago and New York City, which had as many as 100,000 speakeasies in their heyday. During the period of prohibition, code names for alcohol circulated as well. Some of the more popular names were coffin varnish and panther sweat.
Dare County has its own rich history when it comes to the Prohibition era. Buffalo City, which has long been swallowed up by marshes, was once a renowned and lucrative bootlegging hub that was considered the moonshine capital of the United States for much of the Prohibition.
Once a bustling community of about 3,000 residents, Buffalo City transitioned from a logging community to a bootlegging one during those days. Local businesses such as Outer Banks Distilling and Buffalo City Jug Shop highlight Buffalo City’s claim to fame.
Grandstaff & Stein, which also has a location in Richmond, Va. and one soon to open in Williamsburg, Va., is another way to celebrate the roaring twenties right here on the Outer Banks.
Located at milepost 9.75 on U.S. 158 in Kill Devil Hills (former location of the Flying Fish Cafe), Grandstaff & Stein will host its grand opening on Saturday night, Jan. 28. Dinner will from 6 to 10 p.m. and cocktails and hor devours will be served until 2 a.m.
Visit grandstaffandstein.com for more information, and visit the speakeasy’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for the password! ♦