It has been nearly 90 years since prohibition was repealed, but Americans still love speakeasies. Those roaring 1920s “gin joints” were illegal, under the radar clubs born after alcohol was banned in 1920.
Sobriety was the intention but folks flocked to speakeasies and bootleggers made a fortune. Actual speakeasies are well in the rear view but clubs, which appropriate speakeasy elements, such as vintage decor, fun finger foods and popular cocktails are all over the country.
Add Spokane – well, Airway Heights, technically – to the list of cities to have a cool retro bar dubbed a speakeasy. Highball: A Modern Speakeasy is a swanky venue that opened Monday at Northern Quest Resort and Casino. Highball features an eclectic menu that includes the Bootleggers Board, which has cured meats, chicken liver pate, aged cheeses and crackers. There’s chicken a la king with braised chicken, cognac mushrooms, red peppers, carrots and peas. And there are the huckleberry salmon lollipops, with yuzu cream anglaise and huckleberry pistachio dust. There are pinwheels, a puff pastry with minced meat and a Spam omelet, an homage to the popularity of canned meat during the 1920s.
The cocktail menu includes a signature made-to-order martini and The Chandelier, a French 75 with dazzling edible glitter. “This venue is overdue for Spokane,” said Sam Askew, Northern Quest Resorts Casino executive director of resort operations. “It’s super unique to not just the Spokane area but to Washington state. We’re so excited to present a speakeasy in the modern era. If Gatsby were alive today he would have Biggie Smalls and Tupac hanging here.”
Now that would have been a scene. However, the late rappers, who led the feuding East Coast and West Coast hip-hop crews aren’t around to enjoy it. They’re missing out on a club with high-end spirits in a 4,700-square-foot venue, which includes a stage and a dance floor, with a capacity for 325 patrons. Many of the evenings will feature a DJ.
“It’s going to be a fun place to go for drinks, food and music but we’ve put a lot of effort into the look of this club,” Askew said. That’s evident since the stunning room boasts 42 chandeliers with Swarovski crystals. There are 16 custom-built booths, courtesy of Kalispel Upholstery, high-top tables and a custom-tufted diamond-patterned wall treatment at the entrance to Highball. The design and build teams are local to the Inland Northwest. The nightclub space was designed by HDG Architecture, with Lydig Construction serving as the general contractor.
However, the greatest piece of Highball eye candy weighs 1,300 pounds and actually pre-dates Prohibition. The massive iron gate, which was constructed in 1890, was made for the historic Church Missions House in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan, which was built in 1892. “The gate is just amazing,” Askew said. “It is a vital part of Highball.”
Askew was looking for such an object and while searching online found the gate, which languishing in an architectural salvage company in Philadelphia. “It was serendipity,” Askew said. “The gate needed a home and we needed something just like it. It is unique, just like our entertainment.”
Nova Kaine, Spokane’s hardworking drag queen, will be the featured attraction for Sunday brunch. “I’m so excited about the Sunday Brunch since one of my favorite places to go in New York is a place called Don’t Tell Mama, which had a Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli drag show,” Askew said. “The brunch and the show is going to be an amazing experience for everyone.”
Highball is so much about inclusion that it’s bypassing a speakeasy staple, a password. “We want to make it easy for people to come in and have a good time,” Askew said. “Highball is for everybody.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.