First look: York’s first Speakeasy bar has opened – and it’s a hidden gem
Our city’s first Speakeasy opened tonight – bringing the spirit of New York to Old York.
Tucked away below Charlie’s Pizzeria, a family-friendly American-Italian restaurant that opened on Feasegate in August, you’ll find The Hi Ho Club.
Inspired by the 1940s New York-style Speakeasy, The Hi Ho Club could soon become York’s most talked about hidden gem.
Accessed in the basement of the Feasegate building, the Hi Ho Club is inspired by an American speakeasy during the years of the prohibition, when drinking dens were popping up in unexpected places.
“The atmosphere of the time where everyone was so down and it was that you could go in there and the music would be good and everyone would be happy,” owner Charlie Hudson told YorkMix.
“I think we’re almost in a mirrored state at the moment where everyone’s going through all these crazy times.”
Food and drink
The Hi Ho Club serves mainly cocktails and wine – with draft beer coming in three weeks time.
The cocktail menu has been created by James Wreglesworth, of Year Zero.
“He basically does a lot of crazy flavours,” Charlie said. “But it’s all about being delicious and it’s all about the speed of service – and things you probably might not get elsewhere.”
One cocktail is the Scroppino – a mix of vodka, prosecco and white peach sorbet. Another is the Hard Aperol Spritz – a twist on the classic with an extra shot of Rhubarb and Ginger flavoured gin added in.
Charlie is keen on sustainability – and an example of this is using any leftover basil from the kitchen above for Sam’s Basil Smash Especial, a gin based cocktail with fresh basil and lemon.
Cocktails range from £7-9.
Selected food from Charlie’s Pizzeria will be served downstairs in The Hi Ho Club – pizzas and bar snacks.
Pizzas start at £7.95 and include classics such as Margherita and Pepperoni to slightly fancier fare like the Ortolana – which is topped with artichoke, roast pepper and pine nuts. There’s also the option to create your own pizza!
Bar snacks include a special version of the Italian classic Pan con Tomate – garlic rubbed bruschetta topped with tomatoes, n’duja and fresh parmesan. Yum!
The road to opening up though was a long one, and not easy.
The bar had been Charlie’s dream for two years. After obtaining the license in 2019 and securing the building in February 2020, Charlie came to sign at the end of March 2020 – and of course Covid hit.
“I managed to agree with the landlord that we would have free rent until January, because obviously we thought it would be over by then,” Charlie said.
Charlie retrained as a carer – a job that she still does now.
At Christmas time in 2020, the team sold mulled wine from the door so they were able to receive help from the government.
Then in February this year, Charlie was diagnosed with breast cancer – sadly, she lost her sister to breast cancer ten years previously. She embarked on a six month course of intensive chemotherapy.
“What kept me going through the chemotherapy was working on this place and getting it open,” said Charlie.
Charlie now has the all clear.
A crowdfunder was also created to help open The Hi Ho Club.
“I feel proud of my team, my friends,” Charlie said. “I feel proud of myself.
“I feel like I’ve been given a second chance – so I’m flying.”
The Hi Ho Club is open from today (Friday 1 October).
After Christmas, The Hi Ho Club are hoping to open a Private Drinking Room and VIP Tasting Room. From January, every last Saturday of the month will be a special music event.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be more of an atmospheric experience rather than just going and getting a drink,” Charlie said.
“We want you to come and have the best time ever.”
The Hi Ho Club has created four jobs, with the potential to recruit more staff in the future.
Charlie’s Pizzeria and The Hi Ho Club is open Thursday to Sunday, 12pm to 12am.
For more information and to make a booking, visit their website here.