Behind The Secret Door

9679917702_ee7f516e28_bWhen you walk into the Blind Barber, you’ll find what you expect in a barbershop (a place for cutting men’s hair). You’ll see a barber and his customers. You’ll hear “the buzzing (sound) of the shavers (electrical tools for cutting hair) and the snips (sound) of the scissors.” But if you walk through the barbershop and through the door in the back you’ll find something completely different – a bar (a place where drinks are served) where you can order drinks and sandwiches. That is the real Blind Barber.

To get into Dirty Laundry, you have to walk down a dark alley (a narrow street behind buildings) until you see a black-dressed man sitting at the top of a dark stairway and say to him, “I’m looking for Dirty Laundry.” He’ll tell you, “You’ve come to the right place.” Behind the door at the bottom of the stairs, you’ll find a bar, a small room with tables, and another room where musicians perform.

When you arrive at Lock and Key, you’ll find a wall covered with old door knobs (handles you turn to open a door). If you choose the right one, a door will open and you can walk in. If you choose the wrong one, nothing happens unless the doorman helps you find the right one.

The Blind Barber, Dirty Laundry, and Lock and Key are popular modern speakeasies here in Los Angeles. They are a throw-back (similar to something in the past) to the 1920s. Let me tell you the story.

From 1920 to 1933, there was a ban (official order against something) – called Prohibition – against making, selling, and transporting (moving from one location to another) alcoholic drinks in the U.S.

The goal of Prohibition was to reduce social problems, such as crime and corruption (dishonest and illegal (against the law) behavior by powerful people in government and business) and to help increase production (the amount of work done) in factories by making sure that workers stayed sober (not drunk). Unfortunately, it didn’t work so well.

During Prohibition, one of the few places you could find alcoholic drinks was in speakeasies, underground (secret and illegal) businesses where people ate, drank, gambled, and enjoyed music, especially jazz.

Many speakeasies were started during Prohibition. Police tried to shut them down (stop or close them), but as fast as they found and closed one, another would take its place. To try to keep police from finding them, bartenders (people who fix drinks) and waiters (people who serve food) would tell their customers to “speak easy,” to be quiet while inside a speakeasy and to not say anything about them outside.

Today’s speakeasies are legal. And they may be more fad (popular for a short time) than trend (something that will continue). But they are one way to relive (experience again) a small piece of American history.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of the Successful English web site.

 Credit: Eight modern speak-easy bars in L.A., for that insider feeling by Jenn Harris (with photos).

Photo of Club 21, a former speakeasy in New York, is used under Creative Commons License.

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10 Responses to Behind The Secret Door

  1. Dan says:

    Hi Everyone.

    This is a guess, probably there even are some people attending these kinds of bars dressed up like in the 20s, and probably many tourists as well.

    Just to let you know guys, I do not drink and do not do drugs, and I do not support prohibiting certain things because it does not work. And this post remembers that to us.

    Hey, I like the idea of a door with all those fake door knobs. I wanna play with those and try every single one of those.

    Me: this one?
    Door guy: Nope.
    Me: this one?
    Door guy: Nope
    Me: this one?
    Door guy Nope. And so forth…

    You know something I do not get? The conservatives over there are always waving the banner of freedom, you know, like: less government, more freedom to the people, right?
    At the same time though, they want to prohibit things like smoking pot, abortions, gay marriage and so on. Isn’t that a contradiction?

    I do not know, maybe I am writing about stuff I do not know very well.

    Anyway, I’ll think this over during the night shift, and I am probably going to add to this tomorrow.

    Thanks bye

  2. HILARIO says:

    Going to a barbershop to have a hair cut and having a drink while one is waiting for his cutting turn, that does not seem to me such a bad idea. Maybe a revival combination of this business model could be successful today as well. I mean an state-of-the art modern hair styling shop with a nice bar inside. Some of the speakeasies could be properly thematized for soccer lovers o geek tech´s or any other group of lovers of whatever. After all one has to go to barber every two months or so, why not?
    What it seems to be out of any rational doubt, at least for people having two fingers of frontal, is that prohibitions create black markets and that these are the worst of the worst consequences about any ban, but being the worse, this it´s not the only negative consequence from a stupid political measure, there´re of course many others, even today as dangerous and pernicious as well. We all know what black money has always been financing crime and social slavery. Not to mention the social lacra of the corrupters and the corrupted ones.
    A broad sharing information, a fair divulgation, a real discernment, a self teaching control consumption and a clear awareness would be much more efficient measures to counter any potentially bad human ingestion and to pursuing social benefits in health and productivity, and even adding saving lots of money and suffering. They call it efficacy at no social cost.

  3. Dan says:

    Good day everyone,

    I always have to remember myself that there is room for anything, and not to be judgmental about what happens around.

    With that I mean that what at the beginning could be perceived as a negative, it might end up having positive or funny outcomes.

    I have always loved observing my fellow human being, myself and other animals how they/we cope with everyday things, and this is a good example.

    Moreover, as this piece shows us, you can also have consequences after decades. Look, after almost 100 years of those events, there comes out a business model.

    I could give many example of what I am trying to say. Here is one personal.

    I used to criticize Jehovah Witnesses ( in a respectful way as we have to respect everyone’s beliefs) then one day I thought: “wait a minute! let me see what these people want and what they believe in and go around preaching”

    After that I went to see their website, and after a while guess what? I have found the light and have became a atheist.

    Now, every time they come here and knock at my door I thank them for pushing me the other direction.

    See! what I mean? I believe that anyone of us had similar experiences in his/er own life.

    Thank you guys.

  4. peter says:

    Hi Warren ,
    A very Nice culture talk.
    Very delightful!!
    Even in Canada , u hear people talk about speakeasies.
    It is a fine piece of history!
    It is the kind of talk that always bring a nostalgic smile on people’s face as if they lived that part of history themselves.
    It has a nice ring to it.
    I understand ,back then ,the government prohibited liquor trades and consumption to limit people access to alcohol. But, the plan backfired as some people saw this as opportunity to make a butt load of money through smuggling in liquor and sell them in high prices. It would cost government an arm and leg and man power to cease and desist their illicit endeavours!
    A quick question, though
    I m wondering ,how come , back then , no body of laws ever thought of regulating alcohol use instead of banning it altogether. They could have had it reined like that.
    I know ,I know ,Hindsight is 20 /20.
    But, Don’t u think ,it is more of a common sense?
    even I know that. And ,let me tell You , i m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
    Thanks Warren for the cheerful trivia.
    I liked it very much!
    It was fun!


  5. Dan says:

    Hey Pete.
    I don’t know how to answer your question, but reading about those times, wow!
    I have been reading strange things.
    At the time doctors still prescribed alcoholic as a medication.
    In fact, I’m learning that they opposed prohibition and lobbied
    against it.


  6. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Very weird to me because in Brazil there are not such places. We have bars with strong drinks where people drink more than they can bare and so they get drunk and do a lot of things that police don’t recomend and go to jail or stay on streets speaking folishes or fall down until dogs lick their lips. Awefull, no? Yes, this is like Brazilian do when they have not control on alcoholic drinks. Even though I do not use to drink, the lesson was somehow interesting.

  7. Dan says:

    Hey Guys.

    As I said before I do not drink, and never attend any sort of bars as well.
    I have nothing against getting wasted or high, which in certain occasions might also be of good use. But I am not 100% sure about that.

    I do not like the addictive side of introducing intoxicating stuff into the body, and I try, as much as I can, to always be present in the moment.

    So, in my case prohibition would not have impacted my life since I kind of banned those things to myself already.

    I used to be a wet in the past, but now I have joined the dry people. It’s been 3 years. I was a moderate drinker though.

    I have been a vegetarian for the same amount of time.

    That’s because I am a kind of guy that tends to eliminate things both material and under the habit side of things.
    Meanings things that we tend to do every day.

    The only thing I have noticed is increasing is my writing and posting here and on the comment section of online papers.
    Hope you guys do not get bothered by that.

    Anyway, that’s it. Thanks bye!

  8. emiliano says:

    Few to say about the subject, as since the last 20 years or more emiliano has not drunk a single drop of alcohol.
    He was said by the doctor on the year 1994 that it was necessary for him not to drink a single sip of wine or beer
    if he wanted to live just a Little more and it is just what he has done.
    What it was for?. Easy, for his liver condition, having the VHC in his blood not a single sip of alcohol should be good
    for him.
    It was said and done till now, and he remains alive for the moment without drinking just nothing, not wine, so good
    the Spanish wine, not beer, not Spanish cava, or other alcoholic drinks, only water.
    Doing that what emiliano really likes to drink always it is just water, nice rich water, and necessity makes a rule
    till the point of he doesn’t like to drink anything else in the case he will be right in future if he could defeat the
    virus with the new drugs scientists are inventing.


    Being out of alcohol social customs, now I could see that this drug together with tobacco could be one of the worst people
    could consume being not persecuted by the law.
    Why? I don´t really know, may be there are too much money invested in them.
    Even to take some drinks are a nice socially approved custom, and if you say no, I don´t drink some people could look at
    you as if you were a freak or an alcoholic. I know that perfectly well now.

    Finally I have read in the web some news about the ravages of alcohol, and it is said that at least
    2,5 Million Alcohol-Related Deaths Worldwide Annually are attributed.
    But not only deaths but other kind of bad diseases.

    That´s all what I could say about drinks or bars, but people like to be free and do which ever thing they like to do without
    thinking in the bad results of drinking alcohol so young as usually boys and girls do here in my country every week end
    just on the streets of the big cities.

    I think it is really very sad when we think what are going to happen to these young when they will be older.


  9. Dan says:

    Me again.
    Just to say that on the last episode of podcast we find “open-minded”.
    That’s one of my favorites words.
    I also try to practice that.


  10. MJ Marra says:

    Interesting 🙂
    Americans really hve a rich history,
    Maybe, Speakeasies nowadays are bars that doesnt have a permit from the government and doesnt wanna pay Taxes. . .

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