Food & Drink Tuesday, September 6th Words by: Adam Knight, pictures by: Adam Knight

Inside Hereford's new, secret speakeasy

Food & Drink Tuesday, September 6th

Inside Hereford's new, secret speakeasy

An era of unparalleled Puritanism and opulence, The Roaring Twenties were every bit about Gatsby’s flappers as they were wingtipped mobsters running whiskey across the freezing expanses of North America’s Great Lakes.

Those barrels - those that made it - were rolled up to the unmarked doors of illicit bars that spanned every city on the East Coast. Inside, drinks were poured cheap and long and away from the eyes of the authorities, where every working Joe and Jolene could kick back and relax.

Here was born the ‘speakeasy’.

If laws have long-since changed, the idea of having a secret bar to drink in has never been more popular – a big-city counter to having a Weatherspoon’s on every corner.

London has an entire network of ‘speaks’. Some require a password, others have elaborate methods of entry including toilet cubicles or pay phones.

If some of these secret bars nod to their transatlantic predecessors through their whiskey and waistcoats aesthetic, many more are contemporary underground saloons tucked in to the basements of the capital.

Hereford’s own speakeasy, opening on Saturday, falls in to the latter group. And yesterday we took a look inside, before the lights are turned on.

An idea a year in the making, you have likely walked past the bar’s front door dozens of times without breaking stride.

The bar is hidden down a flight of stone steps, and behind a large iron door, that, when swung open, only reveals the bare striplights and breezeblocks of an ante room that will leave you questioning if you are indeed in the right place.

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A converted cellar, the walls still feature the urgent scribblings of past landlords to ‘turn off the lights’. The only clue of what's inside will, from this week, be a faint funk and soul bassline escaping from the bar within.

The plan is take on some of the vaudeville elements of the Prohibition-era, putting comedy shows and magicians at the heart of the bar's programming.

The setting, all blacked-out walls, industrial airvents and school desks, lends itself to the atmospheric.

To the right of the stage, a 5m x 3m wire cage stands empty. On weekends it’ll be home to DJs playing funk, soul and disco.

If summer is all about cold ciders and warm nights, then autumn and winter when the evenings draw in, it’s about finding the perfect place to hide away.

Look carefully and you may just find it here.

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