The Return of The Roaring Twenties and Soho’s Speakeasy bars

Nicholas Cox  walks us through The Return of The Roaring Twenties and Soho’s Speakeasies… this iconic square mile is about to roar louder than it has ever roared before!

With conflict comes civilian as well as military regulation and the First World War was no exception. The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 followed so closely behind the end of hostilities it meant restrictions that might have been lifted earlier remained in place a while longer.

By August 1921 though, the government decided to relax the wartime Defence of the Realm Act, meaning alcohol was again on the menu with far fewer constraints.  Dance halls and nightclubs popped up as the bright lights of Soho and the fast living of the Jazz Age provided an invaluable form of escapism from the realities of everyday life. Anyone who was anyone and a whole host of wannabes headed straight for the area…

Photo by cottonbro

Kate Meyrick founded the infamous 43 Club at 43 Gerrard Street in ’21 but was raided, arrested and imprisoned many times because of her light touch interpretation of the licensing and drugs laws.

Jessie Matthews, born at 94 Berwick Street and a chorus girl in Andre Charlot’s Review of 1924 became an acclaimed dancer and Soho legend.

By 1925 the Gargoyle Club had opened at 69 Dean Street, founded by socialite David Tennant as a place for writers, artists and musicians to mingle with the rich and well-connected.

Fast forward one hundred years and as Covid recedes into the history books, Soho, with its impressive choice of Roaring Twenties-style speakeasies stands ready to repeat the 1920s…

Boozey Does It: 7 Speakeasy Bars to try in Soho

The Blind Pig (prohibition era slang for a den of iniquity) is discreet, to say the least. To get in you need to look under the vintage ‘Optician’ sign for the blindfolded hog doorknocker at 58 Poland Street. The decor is authentically retro with an antique mirrored ceiling, copper-topped bar and charmingly mismatched wooden furniture, creating a relaxed, easy-going vibe.

📍Social Eating House, 58 Poland St, London W1F 7NR

Basement Sate, 8 Broadwick Street. Behind the basement red door is a place where people can literally sate themself on new tastes and unexpected combinations, an informal comfortable setting where the music is as vibrant as the cocktails.

📍8 Broadwick St, London W1F 8HN

Jack Solomon, named after the boxing impresario, is at 41 Great Windmill Street. It’s a club that allows everyone and anyone to relax, engage and escape for the evening and well into the night.

📍41 Great Windmill St, London W1D 7NB

The Arts Theatre Club, located on Frith Street, represents glamour with roots firmly lodged in the prohibition era. Private tables, decadent sofas and a vintage piano doubling as a DJ booth are scattered around the candle lit lounge, creating a chilled but vibrant feel.

📍50 Frith St, London W1D 4SQ

The Experimental Cocktail Club, 13A Gerrard Street, is a buzzing three-floor joint with a gently lit backdrop of minimalist brick and mirrored walls. Cut-glass tumblers help create the impression of an opulent but cosy bar.

📍13a Gerrard St, London W1D 5PS

The Opium Cocktail Parlour, 15-16 Gerrard Street, a secret bar behind a nondescript jade green door that opens onto a long dark stairway. The decor is 1920s Shanghai with a contemporary feel.

📍15-16 Gerrard St, London W1D 6JE

The latest late-night drinking den in the heart of Soho opened late last year. Louche at 5 Greek Street, offers live music and classic cocktails with the all glitz, glamour and potential misdemeanours of the underbelly of Soho. Designed to look like a bar from the 1920s, the inconspicuous spaces and alcoves complement a low-lit, raffish interior celebrating the area.

📍5 Greek St, London W1D 4DD

Up next will be Nightjar launching this month in the basement of Kingly Court, already home to two retro bars – Cahoots (1940s) and Disrepute (1960s). It will occupy the site of the lively 1960s nightclub, ironically named the Roaring Twenties!

📍Kingly St, Carnaby, London W1B 5PW

Here’s to the new Roaring Twenty Twenties!

Written by Nicholas Cox | IG: @njcoxx

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This article was originally published in the Spring issue of My Soho Times. Pick up a free copy on your next visit into Soho – or read it online CLICK HERE!

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