Letters from the Drinking Town 13 – The Bootleggers Prohibition Bar

Dear Worcester

What is there to say about a dull restaurant bar closing its doors and rebranding themselves as something that is different but still dull? What am I to say about this? How shall I be a pleasant host and guide if this is my thesis and the constant theme I will be whistling?

How shall I do this? With a smile on my face and a bounce to my step.

It’s moments like this that make me happy to be a crass, cynical writer. It gets to be a drag writing pleasantly about pleasant places. Bring on the banal, I got my mean spirited adjectives sharpened and holstered at the end of each sentence.

Storytime: Once there was a health food store on Park Avenue and Chandler Street and it was good. Their wheat germ was the finest of the realm. And lo, they decided that they should have a restaurant in the same location and that was good. And it became Evo, which (I think) was in reference to it being the next level of Evolution of cuisine. Those health food folk are nothing if not humble.

Evo had a nice run of several years. The bar in the back was small and inconsequential and despite what others said, I thought the food was pretty mediocre, if not bad. The last time we had food there, it was downright inedible. That is always a good sign that a joint is going to go out of business.

But not in this fairy tale, brother. In this one, the wounded beast retreated into the cocoon that we call “Closed for renovations” They ended Evo and promised to come back with a great new design and wonderful new concept.

This is always the problem with new places, or old places getting the face lift with a little botox for good measure. The problem, the question that should be asked and I don’t think is, is, do we really go to restaurants because of their concept? If we love Johnny Depp pirate flicks, are we more predisposed to love a new bistro called the Buccaneer, with their signature dish, the Walk the Plank Flank Steak? We can have a Sports Bar with a Difference, with a Point Break themed bar, it is surfing and football and Keanu. Everyone wants to go that bar? Who doesn’t love that movie? I mean you can have a 50 Year Wave Shooter.

All of this to say that the owners of Evo came back with the Bootleggers Prohibition Pub. That’s right, its a prohibition themed bar restaurant. You remember that time? When people died from drinking wood alcohol. When people went blind or discovered their limbs shaking uncontrollably because of the bad booze they were pounding. When gangsters tightened their grip on city economies. Let’s have a bar celebrating that.

I was given my 7.50 gin and tonic (Wednesday at 7:30) in a mason jar. Not a real mason jar, but a mass produced replica to give you that mass produced nostalgia. Here is Dave being an annoying effete. I don’t want to drink a highball in a mason jar. I would like to have it in a highball glass. If i must, then a decent pint glass, or even a small snifter. Something that is kind and pleasant to the hand holding it. A mason jar is not fun to hold, it’s kind of silly.

The drink was okay. It didn’t make me blind. I didn’t lose control of my legs. That’s a good cocktail in a prohibition pub, right? Maybe that’s why they called themselves a prohibition pub, to lower the bar on their cocktails. Continue to live = good cocktail. Dying in a fit = sub par cocktail. They should put that on their ad copy. “Come to the Bootleggers Prohibition Saloon – Our Drinks Won’t Kill Ya!”

The bar is now prominent, in the middle of the room. The tables are non-descript. There is sports on but one of the flat screens is showing an old movie playing on TCM. The idiot in me was annoyed that they weren’t playing silent movies. It should be movies from the 20s. Could that be so hard?

The waitress was wearing a flapper dress. It was black and slinky and covered in tassels. I looked at that and I could imagine her leaning over at a table and a platoon of those tassels falling into the soup of the day.

It was quiet there on that Wednesday and it just felt forced.

A while back, I discovered a group of essays written in the New Yorker magazine during the 1920s about illegal bars. The series was Speakeasy Nights by Niven Busch. They were cute and funny at first, but as I continued to read them on the New Yorker online archive, I discovered that the stories were sad. The places described were run down and all the smiles and humor felt like a facade. It wasn’t the writing. It was the places being written about. There was a desperation.

The speakeasy was a sad kind of thing. A placeholder. An illegal room, an apartment, an untidy flat. The liquor was poor and the food over priced.

Is this what we want our new bars to emulate? A run down joint, two steps away from being busted? On the Bootlegger’s facebook account, they sometimes inform you of special events and give the password. Passwords are a fun exclusive thing, but only if you want to go in.

Until Next Time

Dave

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2 thoughts on “Letters from the Drinking Town 13 – The Bootleggers Prohibition Bar

  1. Greetings Dave,

    I’m late to comment on this but I need to thank you.

    I was never a fan of Evo so initially I was kind of excited to find out that the place had undergone some sort of reinvention. But, when I saw its new name, something about it seemed off-putting. And then I read this,

    “That’s right, its a prohibition themed bar restaurant. You remember that time? When people died from drinking wood alcohol. When people went blind or discovered their limbs shaking uncontrollably because of the bad booze they were pounding. When gangsters tightened their grip on city economies. Let’s have a bar celebrating that.”

    and, bingo!

    Keep up the good work,
    Jane

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