The term Speakeasy, which literally means “speaking softly”, was used to define those locals that illegally sold alcoholic beverages. These businesses found the height of their expansion during the period of Prohibition, that is between 1920 and 1933, when the sale and production of alcoholic beverages was illegal in all the United States of America.
But where does the name Speakeasy come from? The story tells of a certain Kate
Hester, who was running a saloon just outside Pittsburgh, who refused to pay the state tax for the new $ 50 saloon licenses that had risen to $ 500, continuing his work negligently. To avoid that the illegal sale of alcohol could be a reason for police attention, it seems that every time her clients, in the grip of alcohol, became too turbulent, she silenced them by whispering “speak easy boys!” But there is also a theory that it was simply the way a customer had to order an alcoholic beverage: the bartender would told customers to be quiet and speak softly.
In history, however, Speakesy kept their importance alive, so much that they were often used as homes or gangster offices that made fortune with liquor or beer. Always positioned in neighborhoods or in the most hidden streets, they were often basements that were set up in bars. So almost always the structure of the room provided brick vaults, exposed stone and essential furnishings. It was important that the volume was very low, to avoid suspects.
After 1933 all the locals returned to the surface and the concept of Speakeasy was abandoned until today. In fact it is precisely in recent years the spread of new secret rooms because of the charm aroused by all that is hidden, secret or for a few close friends. They began to develop in every part of the world, including in Italy. (I refer you to this article by Alessandro Ricci to find out where they are.) In New York there is now the embarrassment of choice, and you can find the addresses on Tripadvisor. But without a doubt, the search for the local is the best part of the game: in fact often Speakeasy are hidden behind other activities that can have a completely different character from those of bars. It is also difficult to be able to enter, because they are often very small locals, but above all because tourists are not always well-seen because it favors a local clientele who, tendentially, can often return.