SPEAKEASYS

Through the backdoor

A code word, a tiny red door, a walk through the cold room or a laundrette – secret bars, known as speakeasies, are the new trend in Paris.


Ever heard of “Branlage à la mouche”? Neither had I. It is an erotic service that was pompously extolled in the price list of a certain Mademoiselle Marcelle Lapompe in Paris in the year 1915, and would provoke outrage among animal conservationists today. With words that are not quite suitable for the ears of innocents, she explained all the details. Basically: A fly with its wings torn off stimulates the Johnson of a client taking a bath. A visit to the dimly lit “Blaine Bar” (65 rue Pierre Charron) can be quite enlightening, particularly if you take a detour to the smoking room where the historic document is hanging on the wall. Unfortunately, Paris didn’t earn itself the indomitable reputation as the city of love because of romance, but more because of the fact that it was celebrated as the hub of legal prostitution towards the end of the Second World War. And you can read here about how sexually liberated Paris really was. 

The “Blaine Bar”, concealed in a little side street off the famous Champs-Elysées, features another allure: that of the hidden and mysterious. Neither sign nor window outside on the street offers any hint of its existence. It is one of the many speakeasies that are currently popping up in every part of the city. These illicit establishments hark back to the 1920s era of the American Prohibition when alcohol could only be poured behind closed doors. And these were places were you had to speak softly to avoid detection, hence the name speakeasy. You have to send the operators a private message on Facebook to obtain a codeword that changes every week. An inner courtyard takes you down to the cellar where waiters clad in black don fedora hats and shake the finest cocktails to the tunes of live jazz music. 

Near the Bastille the “Moonshiner” bar (5 rue Sedaine) opened up. At first glance, it appears to be a bog standard pizzeria (with good pizza by the way), but then you go through the silver door of the cold room to take a trip back in time to the 1920s. After the brief shock of the cold, your heart instantly lights up: soft swing music, a true to the era interior and heavy-pour old-fashioned cocktails, served by extremely tattooed Italians. 

The “Little Red Door” (60 rue Charlot) in the 3rd arrondissement stays true to its name: a tiny red door on the street through which you crawl like Alice down the rabbit hole. Behind it you will find a plush and cosy atmosphere with blue velvet sofas, gourmet tapas, French boutique distillery spirits and extremely unusual cocktails with beetroot, carrot or sesame. In each of these bars: an unusually large number of couples or wannabe couples who are deliberately hiding from the public eye. Because there is one thing that Paris still is today: the capital city of affairs. But I’ll talk more about this another time.