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The rise of speakeasies: Do you know about San Diego’s secret bars? We have you covered (but don’t tell anyone)

Young Blood, a new 30-seat hidden bar in East Village, opened in April.
Young Blood, a new 30-seat hidden bar in East Village, opened in April.
(Arlene Ibarra)

From undercover tiki lounges to outdoor dining decks, the expanding hidden drinkhole niche grew during the pandemic

When Prohibition went into effect in January 1920, thousands of secret bars known as speakeasies sprung up nationwide to offer parched drinkers respite in a suddenly booze-free nation. Now, 101 years later, the speakeasy/hidden bar niche is thriving once again, thanks to customers looking for a unique date night experience. Here’s a look at what’s new, what’s soon-to-open and what has reopened post-pandemic in San Diego.

Young Blood — East Village

One of two secret bars now hidden inside the recently remodeled Neighborhood Restaurant, Young Blood debuted in April. Created by CH Projects, it’s a 1920s art deco train car-style, 30-seat bar whose entrance is hidden behind a refrigerator case. For $57, plus tax and tip, customers get a curated 90-minuted cocktail experience that includes a glass of bubbly and three cocktails. Available by reservation only on OpenTable. 777 G. St., San Diego. youngbloodsucks.com

Flight Deck Provisions — Seaport Village

Tucked inside Seaport Village’s 41-year-old San Diego Pier Café is this new “speakeasy” lounge that is dedicated to restaurant owner “Butch” Bucciarelli, a retired Navy aviator. Open just since the pandemic began, it’s a sunny bar with a bay view overlooking North Island Naval Air Station. The menu features nautically themed cocktails and a sizeable food menu of shareable plates and entrees. Military personnel and USS Midway and San Diego Air & Space museum members get a 10 percent discount. 885 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego, (619) 239-3968, sdpier.com/bar

The not-so-secret bayfront dining deck at Garibaldi speakeasy in downtown San Diego.
(Tim King)

Garibaldi — Downtown

Located on the third floor of the InterContinental Hotel San Diego, Garibaldi speakeasy is named for California’s orange-hued state fish. Open since June 2020, Garibaldi has a hidden entrance (find the orange Vespa and wait to be greeted), but its not-so-secret outdoor dining deck has an expansive view of San Diego Bay. It’s both a bar serving Italian-themed beers, wines and barrel-aged cocktails by Jeff Josenhans and a Sardinian-inspired restaurant serving appetizers, pastas and local seafood. 901 Bayfront Court, Suite 1, San Diego, catchgaribaldi.com

Forbidden Cove — Kearny Mesa

This tiki bar opened inside a hidden room at Kilowatt Brewing’s main tasting room in November 2019 before shutting down to wait out the pandemic. Now open Friday and Saturday nights only, it’s an elaborately decorated bar serving tropical drinks like Lava Flow, Hidden Puka and Washed Out to Sea. 7576 Clairemont Mesa Drive, San Diego. Reserve a table at forbiddencovesd.com

Belching Beaver Hard Seltzer Speakeasy — North Park

Belching Beaver has leased the space next door to its 9-year-old North Park tasting room for a soon-to-open speakeasy with a 10-tap seltzer bar spotlighting the company’s hard seltzer drinks. Visitors will access the speakeasy from the beer tasting room through a revolving bookcase. The new space, aiming for an August opening, will also have a patio and food service. 4223 30th St., San Diego, northpark.belchingbeaver.com

A bartender mixes a cocktail at newly renovated Noble Experiment speakeasy in East Village San Diego.
(Shannon Patrick)

Noble Experiment — Downtown

During the pandemic, this old-fashioned speakeasy underwent a complete refresh. Hidden behind a wall of fake beer kegs inside Neighborhood restaurant, it’s a throwback to the dimly lit drink dens of the roaring ‘20s. Unlike its new reservation-only sister spot Young Blood, Noble Experiment reserves 90 percent of its seats for walk-in guests, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly. 777 G St, San Diego, nobleexperimentsd.com

Realm of the 52 Remedies — Kearny Mesa

This Chinese-themed speakeasy, operated since 2018 by its next-door neighbor Common Theory Public House, is accessed through a brightly lit apothecary shop. The 1920s-style venue serves Asian-inspired dishes and cocktails, as well as an expansive menu of spirits. Open Tuesdays-Sundays. 4806 Convoy St., San Diego. Reservations at 52remedies.com

Raised by Wolves — La Jolla

Tucked behind a rotating fireplace inside CH Projects’ retail bottle shop at Westfield UTC mall, this secret bar serves wines, beers and custom cocktails with names like Bidi Bidi Bom Bom and Tiramisu ‘tini. 4301 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego. (619) 629-0243, raisedxwolves.com

At Raised By Wolves bottle shop in the UTC area, there's a secret bar hidden behind a fireplace.
(Arlene Ibarra)

Prohibition — Gaslamp Quarter

Behind the law office door of “Eddie O’Hare Esq.” is this nightclub-style 1920s-style speakeasy, offering cocktails and live music, Tuesdays through Saturdays. There’s a dress code. No ball caps, flip-flops or T-shirts are allowed, but dressy 1920s attire is encouraged. 548 Fifth Ave., San Diego. (619) 501-1919. prohibitionsd.com

False Idol — Little Italy

Open since 2016, this tiny tiki bar is hidden behind a walk-in cooler at CH Projects’ Craft & Commerce restaurant. Co-developed by Martin Cate, the man behind the revered San Francisco tiki oasis Smuggler’s Cove, it’s got an old-school tropical bamboo theme and extensive menu of tiki drinks for one or more. 675 W. Beech St., San Diego. falseidoltiki.com

Oculto 477 — Old Town

Open since 2019 inside the Tahona Mexican restaurant and mezcal tasting room in Old Town, this “neo-speakeasy” is decorated with 477 lights to honor the 477 graves in the adjacent 1840s-era cemetery. Oculto has rules of decorum to preserve a peaceful and respectful environment in honor of the dead. 2414 San Diego Ave., San Diego. (619) 255-2090. oculto477.com

Room 56 — Gaslamp Quarter

It takes some work to enter this 24-seat bar and lounge, accessed via secret code and other instructions behind a bookcase and down a winding staircase at the 3-year-old Moxy San Diego hotel. It’s open by reservation only Thursdays-Sundays. 831 Sixth Ave., San Diego. (619) 239-6699. viiiv.co


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