Feb 26, 2019

Speakeasy Bars: Hidden Gems or Marketable Tools?


‘Speakeasy’ is a term that’s often thrown around today, and also one that many have criticized for being overused or misused. But what are speakeasy bars? Does the phrase have the same definition today as it did in the last century? What is the mystery behind these speakeasy bars… and what led to their popularity?


This story begins over a century ago. In the mid-1800s, the slang term ‘Speak Softly Shop’ was used to refer to Smuggler’s houses. A couple of decades later, the term ‘Speakeasy’ began to appear in novels and referred to unlicensed liquor stores. 


Let’s skip ahead to 1920, the United States of America. This was the year the Government implemented a prohibition on the sale and consumption of alcohol. This period, known as Prohibition, would last 13 years, up to 1933.


Naturally, when something is made illegal, it creates an opportunity for a black market… and, often, heavier consumption!



To cash in on the high demand for newly illegal alcohol, small, discreet bars sprang up around the country. They hid behind heavy doors and passwords.


Within these speakeasies, the unlicensed and illegal sale of alcohol was rampant. Due to the suppression of alcohol, these speakeasy bars not only became more popular, but so profitable that they were able to operate behind closed doors with relative ease.


In fact, their popularity brought about a cultural change as well. Speakeasy bars generally did not discriminate - they were happy to host people of all races and women. The singular desire to consume alcohol knows no barriers of gender and race, and the speakeasies were happy to accept anyone’s money!


After Prohibition ended in 1933, the speakeasy bars were naturally unable to profit off the sales of illegal alcohol, and they became a thing of the past.


But why is the term still used today… and why has it become so popular once again, eight and a half decades on? 




Simply put, speakeasy bars today are themed after the old speakeasies, and located and structured in such a way as to represent the secrecy of the old bars. Admittedly, there have been people critical of the free usage of the term ‘speakeasy’ to refer to these modern themed bars. In most cases, some believe, it’s just about the marketability!



Over the last few years, the number of speakeasy bars in Hong Kong has risen, and there are some hidden gems!

You may be surprised to know that Hong Kong has a lot of such bars. We’re going to reveal a few but remember - part of the charm is that some of the very best speakeasy bars can only really be found via word of mouth.


Frank’s Library - 6 Duddell Street, Central

Room 309 - Queen’s Road Central

Ping Pong 129 Gintoria - Nam Cheong House, Sai Ying Pun

Los Sotano - Lan Kwai Fong, Central

Missy Ho’s - 48 Forbes Street, Kennedy Town


The vibrant drinking culture and nightlife of Hong Kong ensures that there are numerous speakeasy bars, by the modern definition that is. So, if you’re planning to go pub-hopping, why not make it a speakeasy bar-hop instead? Interact with the locals, make a list of the best places to visit and enjoy thrill of shadiness these off-the-beaten-track locations have to offer.


In a way, these bars represent everything great about the culture of the city. Each of them has its own exquisite touch. With dim lighting and a sense of secrecy, a night of drinking can’t get much better than this! 


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