What Was a Bar Called in the ’20s?


Hey there, vintage enthusiasts! Have you ever traveled back in time in your mind to the Roaring Twenties? Flappers, jazz, the Charleston, and, oh yes, bars—or should I say, “speakeasies”? Ever wondered what a bar was called back in those days? Well, you’re in the right place to find out. So, put on your zoot suit or flapper dress, and let’s swing into it!

Setting the Scene — The Roaring Twenties

Picture this: the year is 1920, World War I has just ended, and people are ready to let loose. The Roaring Twenties were a time of great change and excitement, full of artistic innovation and radical social shifts. It wasn’t just an era; it was a cultural revolution. And what’s a revolution without some fantastic places to socialize?

Economic Boom: The economy was doing well, and people had money to spend.

Cultural Shifts: Women’s suffrage, the Jazz Age, and the Harlem Renaissance were making waves.

A bar wasn’t just a bar in the ’20s. It was a place where these cultural currents intersected.

The Age of Prohibition

Enter Prohibition—America’s experiment to ban alcohol. It started in 1920 and ended in 1933, but oh boy, did it change the social scene. Legal bars turned into a no-go, but did that stop anyone? Absolutely not!

Volstead Act: This was the law that made the sale of alcohol illegal.

Loop Holes and Failures: Despite the law, people found ways to keep the booze flowing.

Prohibition changed how people drank, but more importantly, where they drank.

Say Hello to Speakeasies

So, bars had to go underground, quite literally sometimes. And the term “speakeasy” was born. It was a hidden, illegal bar where people could still enjoy a tipple without getting nabbed by the law.

Origin of the Term: It’s said that “speak easy” was what patrons were advised to do—speak softly to avoid detection.

Unique Features: Secret entrances, disguised storefronts, and even special knocks were part of the allure.

Speakeasies weren’t just secretive; they were an act of rebellion.

The Inside Scoop on Speakeasies

Let’s delve into what made speakeasies so iconic. These weren’t just run-of-the-mill bars; they had character.

Hidden Entrances: Look for a nondescript door or even a false bookcase.

Secret Passwords: You’d need to know the right words to say to get in.

These elements made each visit to a speakeasy an adventure in itself.

The Role of Jazz and Music

Music, baby, music! Jazz was the heartbeat of the speakeasy. It wasn’t just background noise; it was the soul of the place.

Live Bands: Many speakeasies had a house band that played the latest jazz tunes.

Dance Floors: Where there’s jazz, there’s dancing, and speakeasies often had small areas designated for the Charleston or the Foxtrot.

If speakeasies were rebellious, jazz was their anthem.

Other Names and Variants

Speakeasy wasn’t the only term used to describe these hidden bars. Here’s a quick rundown:


Term         Description

Blind Pig               Lower-end speakeasy; often had live animals as entertainment.

Blind Tiger           Similar to a blind pig but usually smaller and more discreet.

Each term adds its own flavor to our understanding of this unique era.

Speakeasies in Popular Culture

From books to movies, speakeasies have been romanticized like crazy.

Movies: Films like “The Great Gatsby” have immortalized the glamor of the speakeasy.

TV Shows: Series like “Boardwalk Empire” delve into the darker sides of these establishments.

This allure isn’t just historical; it’s part of our collective consciousness.

The Legacy of Speakeasies

Even though Prohibition is long gone, the allure of the speakeasy lives on. Modern bars often use the term to signify an exclusive, intimate atmosphere.

Craft Cocktails: Today’s speakeasies often feature high-end cocktails.

Themed Décor: Velvet, dark wood, and jazz motifs are all common.

It’s the Roaring Twenties 2.0, and everyone’s invited!


So, the next time you’re sipping on a gin and tonic at a fancy bar, remember you’re participating in a tradition that stretches back a whole century. What were bars called in the ’20s? They were called speakeasies, blind pigs, and blind tigers, but they were all places of rebellion, music, and, most of all, life.

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