A former speakeasy is reborn anew
CHARLOTTE’S SPEAKEASY | Farmingdale, NY, U.S.
size: 2,000 sf
completion: November 2017
photos: Harriet Andronikides
Shop! member studioBIG contributed to the design, branding, signage, and menus.
BEHIND AN UNASSUMING WHITE BOOKCASE IN A YOGURT SHOP, correctly uttering the password of the week grants access to a modern-day speakeasy’s secret entrance. Characterized by moody hues and a design that combines the glamour and grit of a historic speakeasy, the recently revived space is located in the yogurt shop’s basement, which served as a speakeasy during Prohibition.
Visitors’ first glimpse inside is a dramatic glass chandelier hung above the stairs, set against mirrored wallpaper and reclaimed 1920s tin ceiling tiles lining the staircase wall. Once downstairs, ceramic wood-look tiles laid in a herringbone pattern subtly lead patrons to the bar.
The colors and character of the yogurt shop and historic wood-frame building carry into the speakeasy’s design. Upstairs, sunny yellows and blues convey charm and hospitality; downstairs, glamorous gold and rich navy act as their sultry, adult versions. Dark wood and a painted tin ceiling add to the effect.
Guests can pull up custom-upholstered metal high-back chairs to the bar, gather in luxurious banquettes or in lounge furniture, or sit at dining tables for food and drinks. Solid wood columns removed to open up the lower-level space were reused as the top of the dramatic, underlit black bar and in wall-mounted pedestal candleholders on the opposite booth wall. The lighting above the bar references vintage liquor bottles that could have been repurposed by a resourceful speakeasy owner.
Custom antiqued mirrors above the left side of the bar visually expand the space. To the right, cork penny tile and fleur-de-lis wallpaper serve as a backdrop to the wine wall. The fleur-de-lis pattern continues into the Charlotte’s Speakeasy logo, which was inspired by the pattern of original tin ceiling tiles salvaged on-site. The leftover pieces of tin ceiling were reused as menu covers.
Refined navy velvet drapery hung from the back wall adds softness, improves acoustics, and reveals a cinderblock wall behind that adds another reference to an ad-hoc speakeasy location. Additional nods to the location’s storied history include vintage pictures of the city, building, and the owners’ ancestors. The building previously housed a department store; a sign found in the store’s basement was reused and displayed proudly in the bar area.
The basement’s wide exit stairs in the back—through which patrons in the 1920s may have escaped during police raids—feature a catacomb-esque archway. The stairs lead to a new vestibule and large outdoor patio.