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Secret Service

The covert legacy of Chicago’s Prohibition-Era speakeasies carries on in night spots new and old that play hard to get.

Secret Service

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Prohibition may have banned alcohol sales in the 1920s and early 1930s, but instead of killing off bars, it just sent them undercover.

Prohibition may have banned alcohol sales in the 1920s and early 1930s, but instead of killing off bars, it just sent them undercover. Speakeasies (so named because you talked quietly about them), sold booze on the sly to patrons who found the right door, said the right words and possibly knew the right person inside. Prohibition ended in 1933, but the fascination with hidden hooch survives. Today, several Chicago bars still maintain an air of speakeasy secrecy, whether they’re tucked away or require a certain local knowledge for admission.

Here are 10 to search for.

The Violet Hour

1520 N Damen Ave

There’s an art to finding the door to this Wicker Park bar. Inside, take care to observe the posted rules, including no cell phone usage.

The Office

955 W Fulton Market

In keeping with speakeasy spirit, you don’t just open the door to this West Loop bar and walk in. It’s tucked below The Aviary restaurant, where you need a dinner reservation.

Punch House

1227 W 18th St

If your dad opened a speakeasy, it would look like this. The 1970s rec room decor includes paneled walls, retro pendants, trophy fish and an aquarium.

Three Dots and a Dash

435 N Clark St

Can a tiki bar pass for a speakeasy? The decor is post-World War II, not Prohibition. The name Three Dots and a Dash—Morse code for V, as in victory—comes from a drink created to celebrate the war’s end. The fruit garnish—traditionally three cherries and an oblong slice of pineapple—looks like three dots and a dash.

Watershed

601 N State St

An old jazz lounge in River North caters to fans of craft beers and artisanal spirits. Stone walls, high-backed booths, cushy seats and carpet create an upscale, modern look, but dim lights and a basement setting convey a hideout feel.

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge 

4802 N Broadway St

More than 100 years old, the Green Mill in Uptown operated during Prohibition, but to be safe, a trapdoor behind the bar hid the liquor lift—and the door remains. Cash only.

Bordel

1721 W Division St

Sexy sells at a clandestine cocktail lounge above Black Bull restaurant in Wicker Park.

The Library

230 W Kinzie St

Given its quiet, bookish atmosphere and shelves of leather-bound volumes, this candlelit refuge below Gilt Bar in River North is aptly named—picture a speakeasy at Harvard.

babyATLAS

3101 N Sheffield Ave # 1

From the street, all you see is a railing and the bar’s odd name on the brick wall.

The Drifter

676-8 N Orleans St

A trip to the restrooms at the venerable Green Door Tavern in River North takes you near the hidden door of this intimate bar (it seats fewer than 40), set in an original speakeasy space.

Looking for more things to do in Chicago?

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