Did you know about the time when alcohol was made illegal (in America)? There was a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, distribution and transportation of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933; this was known as the Prohibition Era. Hence, the creation of speakeasies. The term ‘speakeasy’ came about during this time which translates into an illicit drinking spot. Thanks to bootlegging, gangsters remained in money while people remained intoxicated.
Today, speakeasy refers to a legal, prohibition themed bar with no visible signboards, mostly wooden slates providing the wholly abandoned look. Unfortunately (but thankfully, nonetheless), you’re going to be getting no bathtub gin nor moonshine. We’re glad KL has kept up with the speakeasy trend as you may be able to find one at every nook and cranny of the city. Here is Venuescape’s guide to Kuala Lumpur’s best secret and hidden bars.
Spoilers Alert: This blog post contains information on finding these venues. If you prefer to find these places on your own (and be surprised), you may stop reading…now! 😀
P&C takes us back to the Prohibition era as it is the closest to replicating a 1920s speakeasy. Its decor displays a Wanted poster of Alphonso Gabriel (better known as Al-Capone), newspaper clippings from the 1920s, and truly illustrates our weird infatuation with the Prohibition era. Ahh, the good ol’ Prohibition days!
P&C is located behind Naughty Nuri’s in Hartamas. The clue to getting to this speakeasy is to look for a structure behind Naughty Nuri’s and search for a brown steel door (made to look like wood) with a Rooster and Cat emblem. That should roughly tell you what P&C actually stands for, and no it does not stand for Private & Confidential. 😛
Opening hours: 7.00 pm til late
Feel like an ultimate movie star in this Hollywood themed bar. You may walk past paparazzi, have your Marilyn Monroe moment and get up, close and personal with Oscar (the award). The interior is complete with movie posters, catchy quotes from movies, director chairs, and a popcorn machine!
Located above Neroteca in Damansara Heights, look for the blue lit staircase lined with Hollywood movie posters. Go up the stairs and TADAAA- there you are! Kidding, the entrance is actually concealed by the book shelves, which is super cool!
Opening hours: 5.00 pm onward everyday Tuesday til Sunday
Although Gaslight isn’t actually a speakeasy bar, we feel that it belongs on this list because of its hidden nature. Gaslight Cafe is a home for folk musicians, poets, and writers. Gaslight takes pride in bringing back the 60s and offers a similar historical style. The rustic interior is filled with antics from the good old days, including the very familiar (and nostalgic) old-school light switches. The furniture is built from scratch by the founder, Johann Sultan.
Gaslight welcomes musicians, writers and poetry readers, and contemporary artists to relive the early days as well as to take part in their open-mic sessions held almost every night. Coincidentally, Gaslight is located directly above Blue Elephant, which is directly above Neroteca in Damansara Heights.
Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday 2.00 pm – 11.00 pm, Saturday 12.00 pm – 12.00 am, Sunday 4.00 pm – 12.00 am
Way Modern Chinois (WMC) is actually a Chinese restaurant serving authentic Chinese cuisine. Its interior decor is enough for us to want to keep going back. WMC is not exactly a speakeasy either, but its startling entrance (and, of course, the restaurant itself) deserves a mention on this list.
Also located in Damansara Heights, WMC’s impressive entrance is actually an elevator door. By pressing the elevator button, the elevator opens thereby granting you access into this beautiful Chinese restaurant.
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 12.00 pm – 3.00 pm / 6.00 pm – 10.30 pm
This speakeasy lounge caters to whisky enthusiasts and cigar aficionados. Replicating the masculine feel of a gentleman’s club, WTF (hah!) offers an extensive collection of cigars and whiskys. Although masculinity is apparent at WTF, this may come as a surprise (to some) but women are welcomed too.
Located along Jalan Kasah in Damansara Heights with another outlet in Avenue K, WTF’s outlet in Damansara defies all speakeasy trends with a huge signboard on the building. However, the outlet in Avenue K has an interesting concept behind it. Look out for Samba Brazilian Steakhouse in Avenue K, at the back of it, lays a red London-style telephone booth. Now, this is no ordinary phone booth as there is a secret behind it. Enter the phone booth, pick up the phone and if they like you, they will let you in!
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 3.00 pm – 12.00 am
Hidden within the historical heritage building along Jalan Sin Chew Kee in Pudu, Barlai is housed inside the famous Sekeping Sin Chew Kee guest house. Barlai is a laid back, old school hidden bar with comfortable sofas, picnic tables, and a small garden.
Located in a building that is almost 80 years old, Barlai is a fusion between the old and the new, as can be seen with its modern interior against its traditional old school walls and window panes. Casual, yet full of character, Barlai is worth a visit. Apparently, Barlai got its name from the police station located nearby (Balai Polis is Police Station in Malay).
Opening hours: Closed on Monday / Tuesday – Thursday 4.00 pm – 12.00 am / Friday 4.00 pm – 2.00 am / Weekend 9.00 am – 2.00 am
Mr. Brooks is tricky to find, but it is a worthy quest nonetheless. It is located on the 3rd floor of Bangsar Shopping Centre. The hint to finding this speakeasy is to find a garage in BSC. You will have to look for this said garage with a Sunbeam Alpine car, there will be a tool panel with a secret behind it. Push through the panel and enter a whole new world.
Mr. Brooks, from the same group that brings you Barlai, lies on the other side of the spectrum in terms of design, decor and price. Unlike Barlai, Mr. Brooks exudes class and sophistication. Elegantly designed with stiff prices, Mr. Brooks may turn into a members-only bar. So, if you haven’t checked it out yet, this is your time to do so.
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 5.00 pm – 2.00 am
We saved the best for last as Tate was the first to introduce the speakeasy trend in KL. Located in Intermark, Tate is classy, elegant and sophisticated. This speakeasy oozes masculinity from its chesterfield sofas and solid wood paneling, but it is not limited to gentlemen only as ladies may frequent the place as well.
Being one of the pioneers in the speakeasy scene, Tate’s entrance is praiseworthy. The clue is to look for a white glossy wall with a hanging top hat. Walk in the secret door, through a dimly lit path and be prepared to be greeted by what looks like a knight in shining armor.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 5.00 pm til late
If you enjoyed this post, do share it with your friends. Also, please share with us your experience in any of these venues. If we missed out on any, do add on to the list in the comment section below. In case you are looking for a venue for your event, check out Venuescape for more venues!
Pssst, let’s pretend we folded this up and passed it to you under the desk.
Have a good one!
-The VENUESCAPE Team-