Today, the action at Venice Beach is on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, but during Prohibition, the real action in Venice was underground in the infamous basement speakeasy, Del Monte, hidden below the Menotti’s Grocery. The best part? The Del Monte Speakeasy is still serving drinks over 85 years later, and you don’t need a special password or invite to get in. Here’s the tale of how the Townhouse Bar and Del Monte Speakeasy kept Venice Beach flush with liquor during Prohibition through an elaborate system of tunnels, secret rooms, and ruses… Back then, the Townhouse Bar was called “Menotti’s Buffet,” and its original builder and owner, Caesar Menotti was one of the most well-known men in Venice Beach. When Prohibition came along in 1920, Menotti saw a great “business opportunity”… He transitioned the “buffet” upstairs into a grocery store, but the Feds had no idea the real business was in his newly erected basement bar… Getting into the speakeasy wasn’t easy… For starters, you had to know the bartender. Aside from the need to be “connected,” it was actually physically difficult to get down there- there were no stairs to the basement, just a simple 2-person rope dumbwaiter. Serving the booze, however, was just a small part of Menotti’s illegal liquor empire. He was also quite adept at smuggling and distributing booze. Back in the 1920s, there was a pier much, much longer than the Santa Monica Pier called the Abbot Kinney Pier. Menotti and his cronies knew the territorial waters of the United States only went out 3 miles into the sea. With a long pier like the Abbot Kinney, liquor ships could post up just outside US waters and use smaller boats to ferry the booze to the pier. Aside from being a long pier, the Abbot Kinney Pier also provided another great benefit for Menotti… It was connected to a vast steam and utility tunnel system. The perfect setup for bringing bootleg liquor directly into the basement of his speakeasy. From there he could run cases across the street to the many nearby hotels, which, of course, all wanted liquor. After Prohibition, the speakeasy kept going, now with a name: the Club Del Monte. The Club finally got a stairway, and despite changes in ownership, the upstairs bar (now called the Townhouse) and the downstairs speakeasy are still open for the drinkers and music lovers of Venice Beach. -Roadtrippers Established in 1915, Townhouse is the oldest bar in Venice and one of the oldest bars in the Los Angeles area. Townhouse live entertainment basement, The Del Monte Speakeasy, was a true speakeasy during Prohibition and a night-life nucleus, serving many nefarious and infamous characters of the day, masked cleverly by Menotti grocery store above. Today both floors serve hand-crafted cocktails from the golden age of drinking with classic bartending techniques and knowhow, and offer a fine library of world-class spirits, beer, and wine. The Del Monte Speakeasy features the crème de la crème of live entertainment five to seven nights a week including everything from live music, dj's, comedy and burlesque.
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Townhouse & The Del Monte Speakeasy
- Mon - Fri: 5:00 pm - 2:00 am
- Sun, Sat: 12:00 am - 2:00 am
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