The Blue Room: A Modern Speakeasy Comes to Los Angeles
Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
No themed bar evokes a cooler image than a speakeasy, those respites from Prohibition where high-spirited bootleggers sold their wares. In the 1920s, a puritanical wave crossed the U.S. which outlawed the production, importation, and transportation of alcohol. Speakeasies rose up around the country as illegal places where patrons could grab a drink – and often enjoy a bit of atmosphere, including music and even gambling. The Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) has recently unveiled a modern speakeasy, as part of a major renovation to its facilities.
The Blue Room is located on the LAAC’s fourth floor, with its own bar. The LAAC opened its doors in 1880. The Blue Room was an original part of the club and is famous as the location where the Hollywood “Uplifters” club was formed. The Uplifters – whimsically named The Lofty and Exalted Order of Uplifters by the author of The Wizard of Oz – was an all men’s social club with a strong Hollywood “royalty” element and included members like Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, and L. Frank Baum. Walt Disney is even rumored to have been a member.
The LAAC describes the Blue Room thus: “When LAAC opened in its current location at 7th and Olive Streets in 1912, one of its crowning features was the exclusive fourth floor Blue Room. A center of community for Los Angeles’ best and brightest, the Blue Room was a catalyst for the friendships, alliances, and business ventures that helped shape the city’s history.”
In partnership with Timothy Oulton and Macallan, the Los Angeles Athletic Club has been hard at work resurrecting both the Blue Room and the club. During renovations of the Blue Room, a secret staircase was uncovered that connected the Blue Room to the third floor. It was used during Prohibition, but has been largely untouched since that time. As part of the redesign, it has been reincorporated into the Blue Room’s layout. Now, guests access the space from the third floor via a “hidden” bookcase that connects to the stairs.
The LAAC chose to build on the Uplifter’s Club by launching their own version. The Blue Room team invited 20 founding members to join the modern Uplifters, selecting from people who represented creative members and collaborators of the Club. Members and guests are permitted inside; new recruits can be recommended by existing members. The facility offers the luxurious setting you’d expect. Stepping inside the Blue Room, dark walls and black drapes frame the huge windows suggesting drama in store. The Drum bookcase, Crystal and Test Tube chandeliers, Bombora dining chairs and Match Point wall art all hint at a storied past, fusing modern elegance with a celebration of heritage.
The space was developed in just one month, using pieces from Timothy Oulton’s Gentlemen Fireside Cigar & Sports Club and Oxford furniture collections. Liquid Assets, one of the premier LA cocktail companies, mans the bar. Thanks to the partnership with Macallan, the club boasts an excellent selection of scotches.
Membership dues range from about $1300 – $2100 per year for the Blue Room. The space will be available for event rentals and is likely to host a series of guest bartenders and the like. From a design perspective, the idea of an exclusive speakeasy accessed from a hidden staircase has a certain element of fun. The décor is right on, evoking a storied time of luxury, glamor and old Hollywood. For those lucky enough to be invited, a visit to the Blue Room is an unforgettable experience. And for innovative entrepreneurs looking for ways to stimulate interest in themed bar spaces, we wouldn’t be surprised to see member’s only clubs emerging as a new trend. In order to be successful, though, they’ll need a hook as powerful as what the Blue Room brings to the table.
Images sourced courtesy of The Los Angeles Athletic Club