No matter how hard you try, you can’t keep a good party down. And in 1918, the United States Congress attempted just that by passing the 18th Amendment that banned the sale of “intoxicating liquors,” ushering in a decade-long party known as the Roaring Twenties and the era of the speakeasy.


With roots in British slang, the word speakeasy first appeared on U.S. shores in the mid-nineteenth century to refer to a saloon that operated without a license. The owners of these establishments would tell their rowdy customers to speak low or “easy” to avoid attracting any unwanted attention from the police or nosy neighbors.


In spite of the ban on bars during the roaring twenties–and frequent raids by federal agents and local police–speakeasies burgeoned in the Prohibition era. Most of them were run by organized crime and had “fronts” or fake businesses that masked what was really going on in the back. At their height, an estimated 32,000 speakeasies were operating in New York City alone.


It’s been over 90 years since the repeal of Prohibition and although booze flows legally, there has been a rise in recent years to recreate the atmosphere and layout of Prohibition-era speakeasies. They can be all over the city, but there is a high concentration of speakeasies and speakeasy-inspired places peppered throughout the East Village. Here are six of our favorites.


Please Don’t Tell 

113 St. Mark’s Place

You’d think that it would be tough to hide anything on bustling St. Mark’s Place, and you’d be right. In order to gain entry to Please Don’t Tell, you’ll have to go to the subterranean hot dog joint Crif Dogs next door. If you have a reservation, you’ll enter through the phone booth. If you don’t have a reservation, you’d better be dressed to impress and expect to wait. 

Reservations recommended


Death & Company

433 East 6th Street

Although this speakeasy-inspired bar is hiding in plain sight on East Sixth between 1st and A, the vibe inside, with its low ceiling and dark wood, is a throwback to the jazz age. Winner of Best American Cocktail Bar and World’s Best Cocktail Menu at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. 

No reservations are accepted. Be prepared to wait outside during peak hours.


Beauty & Essex 

146 Essex Street

Located a block and a half below East Houston Street, this is technically a Lower East Side rather than an East Village establishment. But it’s so spectacular, we aren’t going to let a few hundred feet keep it off this list. Guests enter through the secret door of a working pawn shop and enter an opulent multi-level restaurant with multiple rooms.

Reservations recommended


Blind Barber

33 East 10th

Here, you can get a shave, a trim, and a cocktail. This working barbershop by day, has a busy back room that turns into a bar at night. The Barbershop is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. The Backroom is open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Reservations recommended.


Lovers of Today

132 ½ East 7th Street

On the southeast corner of Tompkins Square Park on East 7th Street and Ave A is a delightful

out-of-the-way place, that, if it wasn’t for the placard on the street, you’d miss altogether. Small rooms, intimate space, great for dates. 


The Red Room KGB Bar

85 East 4th Street

This place has stories! Located in the building that once housed the Ukrainian Labor Home, KGB Bar was formerly the Palm Casino Speakeasy, owned by famed mobster Lucky Luciano. But the history doesn’t end there. The Red Room, on the third floor, was the headquarters of turn-of-the-century political activist and writer Emma Goldman’s Secret Society of Anarchists.