Oct 15th, 2016, 12:25 PM

Parisian Speakeasy Bars Without the Cost

By Leila Tidjani
Photo Credit: Santypan, Shutterstock
A look inside these hidden, addordable gems

On Jan. 29, 1919, the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution declared illegal the sale, manufacturing and transportation of alcohol across the United States. During the years between 1919–1933, in 32 states, a healthy lifestyle and family values were promoted by the government. Prohibition activists thought that forbidding alcohol would reduce crimes, violence and corruption. Paradoxically, this ban glamourized alcohol consumption and kindled a law-breaking, gangster mentality.

The circumvention of prohibition law gave birth to the speakeasies, many of which were run by various mafia organizations. During the Al Capone era, these clandestine bars flourished in the United States. They were hidden behind legitimate businesses such as restaurants, on deserted streets, or even underground. The term 'Speakeasy' comes from the fact that at the time, they had to speak very softly, to avoid being noticed from the street.

An American speakeasy bar in the 1920s. Photo Credit: The Herb Museum

The phenomenon is enjoying a renaissance in cities across the world. Secrecy has become a trend fostered by a return to retro. Speakeasy concept bars have appeared popped up across Paris over the last few years. They range from cozy atmosphere with velvet or leather sofas, to hipster locations with design tables, or retro 1920s decor. France never experienced prohibition, but those bar owners have managed to bring back old speakeasy charm through use of hidden doors, passwords, word of mouth, lounge music, indoor smoking areas and more.

Just like anything that is exclusive or rare, speakeasies come with a price. Cocktails usually start at around 12 euros, wine glasses at 5 euros, and wine bottles at 20 euros. I went on a mission to find a Parisian speakeasy bar for someone on a budget. Here are my three favourite.

Lavomatic € €

Photo Credit: La Salopette
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 6 pm2 am. 30 Rue René Boulanger, 75010 Paris.
Metro: République
+ Great ambiance
- Small space

Lavomatic is one of the newest Speakeasy bars to grace Paris. Located above a real laundry mat, do not be surprised if you see people casually waiting for their clothes. In order to enter this bar, you will first need to find the right washing machine and press the bell. Once you open the hidden door, you will be climbing dark narrow stairs, and then you will discover this charming and designed bar where cocktails start at 9 euros and wine bottles start at 25 euros. The cozy and friendly atmosphere will give you the impression to be at home; bartenders come to you for the orders, you might share a table with strangers and spark conversations. They even managed to create a little smoking area inside the bar. My only recommendation would be to avoid going there in large groups as the bar capacity is very small.

Photo Credit: Le Fooding

Photo Credit: Carmen Vazquez, Paris Bouge

Moonshiner € € €

Photo CreditLe Fooding
Open everyday from 6 pm2 am. 5 Rue Sedaine, 75011 Paris.
Metro: Breguet-Sabin
+ Delicious cocktails
- Long waiting time for cocktails

Time stopped in 1927 at Moonshiner. Being one of the very first speakeasy bars in Paris, it is the one where you will really feel the New York 1920s vibe. Located behind a pizzeria, you need to enter the restaurant, walk through the back door, and push the second set of doors to get into Moonshiner. The atmosphere is retro, sultry and old-school intimate. The bartenders will welcome you, wearing old school tuxedos with suspenders; and the gramophone will immerse you into classic Jazz music. Their exquisite cocktails start at 12euros, and you can always ask to have a unique cocktail as they have dozens of different kind of alcohol that you have little chance to find in Parisian “normal” bars.

Photo CreditLe Fooding

Photo Credit: Telerama

Candelaria € € €

Photo Credit: Quixotic Projects

Open everyday from 6 pm2 am (11 pm on weeknights). 52 Rue de Saintonge, 75003 Paris.
Metro: Filles du Calvaire
+ Mexican food and cocktails
- Long queue to get in if you arrive after 11pm

This Mexican inspired bar is also one of the first to have opened of its kind in Paris. The bar is hidden behind a taqueria/bar with a modest décor. The space is tiny so you might need to push around in order to access the backdoor that will lead you into the real Candelaria bar, where all the mixology magic happens. The atmosphere is cozy and subdued with candles. If you are a Mezcal lover, you will definitely enjoy your cocktails, which start at around 12 euros.

Photo Credit: Quixotic Projects

Photo Credit: Quixotic Projects