The Best Speakeasies in D.C.
Prohibition does not sound like a good time, but there was one good thing to come out of that mess: Speakeasies! From secret underground nightclubs to bars full of hooch disguised as barbershops, for 16 years, D.C. residents found creative ways to defy the government and keep the party going.
Prohibition started in D.C. three years earlier than anywhere else in the U.S., which means we had a head start on all the illegal drinking. In 1917, when selling alcohol became illegal in the District, we had 267 Saloons within the city limits. By the end of Prohibition, historians believe we had about 3,000 speakeasies sneaking through town.
Luckily for us, we still have a few; you’re no longer breaking the law, but it’s still fun to pretend.
A proper speakeasy experience requires a secret door, and I have two favorites in town:
Don’t miss Capo Italian Deli in Shaw! Grab a great sandwich and if the red light over the walk-in freezer is on, go ahead and see what’s on the other side. Instead of extra deli meats and cheeses, you’ll find a giant chandelier and a full bar!
After visiting the White House, stroll over to The Mirror on K St. There’s no sign outside, just an everyday flight of stairs leading you to a giant mirror. Behind it, there’s a dark and swanky cocktail bar that will give you all the prohibition vibes. There’s no secret code word to enter, just good times with music, friends, and even a happy hour for afternoon bootleggers.
If it’s history you’re looking for, these days, Beuchert’s Saloon is a trendy farm-to-table restaurant, but a few years ago, during renovations, workers discovered a hidden door. When they went inside, it was still full of liquor bottles from Prohibition. According to local rumors, Beuchert’s Saloon first opened in 1880, but once Prohibitions started in 1917, it became a “sewing shop.” When the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, Beuchert’s Saloon was back in the alcohol business.
Written by Jessica, our local expert guide. Jessica is a Historian, Archivist, and Tour Guide living and working in the District who loves sharing the secrets of the city with tourists and locals alike. Want to learn more? Join us on an Insider’s Pub Crawl!