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Tannins & Hops combines new and old

Modern-day speakeasy Tannins & Hops requires a secret password to gain entry into the bar and restaurant.
Photo by Sammantha Dellaria

To enter Tannins & Hops, a new speakeasy located at 619 SW Water St., customers must approach a side door, one that can only be opened from the inside, ring the bell and provide a password in order to enter. The process is all a part of the experience provided by the new bar and restaurant, according to owner Bryan Harlan.

The concept of a modern-day speakeasy had been an idea of Harlans for eight years. Harlan and his wife, Magan, opened the restaurant officially on Aug. 3, and he said he has since been making sure every aspect of the restaurant is authentic to the 1920s Prohibition era.

I wanted to try and stay as true as possible to a 1920s-themed restaurant Even the soda that we [serve] up here is made by a brewery, Harlan said. During the 1920s and 30s, when breweries couldnt make beer anymore or werent supposed to make beer anymore, a lot of them started making sodas just so they could stay in business, wait it out [and] see if they could make beer again down the road. So, I didnt want RC, I didnt want Coke, I didnt want Pepsi.

The development period of the speakeasy included a complete renovation of the space, previously John S. Rhodells Brewery, in which it currently occupies. However, Harlan didnt have to look far to refurbish the building as he said every structure or piece of furniture in the restaurant was brought in locally.

I didnt keep anything, Harlan said. We knocked everything out [and] completely gutted the place because I wanted something completely fresh. The only thing I kept from Rhodells was the wood on the front facing of the bar I kept all the natural hundred-year-old wood flooring.

Other furnishings in the restaurant include communal tables made from bowling alley lanes from Town & Country Bowl, as well as lounge chairs and tables from Jumers Castle Lodge. However, what sticks out to many customers is the 1867 jail cell, which was once a part of Woodford County Jail in Eureka.

People love getting thrown in the jail, Harlan said. If they dont know the password [to get into Tannins & Hops], they get thrown in jail as soon as they tag us or check in on Facebook, then we let them out.

While the Tannins & Hops speakeasy concept is different from anything else in the area, what really makes the speakeasy stand out is its combination of the new and the old, according to Harlan.

One way Harlan said he implements his modern-day speakeasy concept is by playing music from Postmodern Jukebox, a group that remixes new songs to sound like those of the 1920s and 30s.

Additionally, there are two televisions in the building; however, they are not purposed for entertainment but rather to show what is on draft and the wine specials.

If one of the drinks listed on the TV is flashing red, it signifies to customers that it is about to go off draft. The technology is called DigitalPour, and it allows the business to send out notifications via social media when new drinks are available at the restaurant, according to Harlan.

This is just something that no one else in town is using every time I change a keg, the software will put out a tweet, put out a Facebook post, put something out on Snapchat, Instagram and I believe Foursquare, Harlan said.

According to Harlan, by not using the TVs for entertainment, people are able to talk to one another and enjoy the experience and ambiance of the speakeasy.

I wanted to get people to talk again, Harlan said. There are a lot of places in town that I go to, and Im like, Why is there a TV here? There doesnt need to be a TV here. Because then I am still just stuck there looking at it even though I have no interest whatsoever what is on it. I didnt want to give people something to look at. I wanted them to kind of hang out and mingle.

With an ever-expanding menu that changes every two to three days and includes over 35 different cheeses and 25 different meats, there are many dining options. However, Tannins & Hops doesnt serve entrees.

We have no entrees, Harlan said. I dont like entrees because number one: they are huge, and number two: when you have an entree, you do one of two things when you are done. You pay and you leave or you get dessert [and] then you pay and you leave. Without an entree, you just hang out.

Additionally, all food served at Tannins & Hops is made fresh daily, according to Harlan.

We have no freezer. We have no fryer. We have no microwave. We get food deliveries probably four days out of the week, and we are only open five [days of the week], Harlan said. I want fresh. Fresh just tastes better.

Tannins & Hops is a place for everyone, according to Harlan, who said he sees a wide variety of people come in on a daily basis.

There is not a certain demographic that comes here, Harlan said. Ive got 21-year-olds, Ive got 30-year-olds, Ive got 60-year-olds that come here at varying times throughout the course of the night. It is neat to see. What is cool is when you see the 20 something-year-olds interacting with 50-something-year-olds.

Tannins & Hops is closed on Sundays and Mondays and is open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. every Friday and Saturday. People must be at least 21 years old to enter.

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