During Prohibition, speakeasies flourished in the United States as places where those who wished to flout the temperance laws could meet in a secret room and commiserate over some bathtub gin or moonshine. These establishments lost a little of their mystique when Prohibition was repealed, but the allure of the secret bar lives on. There is a place in Memphis that pays tribute to the spirit of the speakeasy and brings something new to the city: Tailors’ Union Memphis, located at 115 Union.
“Tailors’ Union opened in September with a couple of soft openings,” says Dana Pegues Pointer, co-owner. Her partner is Tyrone Burroughs, who also co-owns Rizzo’s Diner. “We started the place because we wanted to bring something new to Memphis,” she says.
She was inspired by similar hangouts in other cities like Miami and New York, one of which has a faux storefront that is a working pawn shop. Dana wanted to create a hidden watering hole that produces excitement and mystique. And indeed, when looking at the entrance of Tailors’ Union, one would never be able to discern what’s inside. Tailors’ Union has a faux storefront that’s an old-school, vintage tailor shop, complete with a gigantic mirror with a stand, an old-fashioned sewing machine and dress patterns. You get the impression you’re about to get your pants hemmed. Then, enormous sliding doors take you into a Vegas-style lounge that is the heart of Tailors’ Union. This experience pays homage to the secret bars of yesteryears. “We want to be known as a speakeasy,” says Dana.
Tailors’ Union was designed by Ann Nordeen Parker of Parker Design Studio and features a brightly lit bar, elegant white couches and white leather booths for a decidedly modern feel. There is even a lightbox for guests, who can use it to take quick videos or make gifs and post them to social media. “Here, guests enjoy fellowship with other like-minded professionals,” says Dana, adding, “The feedback has been great. People have told us there’s no other place like this in Memphis.”
This elegant, modern lounge area is open to everyone, but The Pocket, located in the basement of Tailors’ Union, is just for members. This part of the building truly has the speakeasy feel. It’s dark and vintage, like the kind of bar Frank Sinatra would frequent. “It has a laid-back and relaxed vibe,” says Charles Monger, Tailors’ Union’s general manager.
There is live music every Friday and Saturday in The Pocket. The music of choice is usually jazz (appropriately fitting the Prohibition theme). Membership is $500 a year, and there are about 160 members, many of whom are in their mid-30s. There is also a cigar lounge, called the Tab Room, which features cigar lockers with humidifiers. Members must be at least 25 years old, and membership includes curbside valet parking. In true modern style, there is even an Instagram page just for members of The Pocket. Folks can find out more about membership by going to tailorsunionmembers.com.
Much of the clientele is made up of folks who work downtown, although Charles says they have members from Lakeland and Arlington — it’s a diverse clientele that hails from different backgrounds. “We would like to have Sunday brunch eventually,” says Charles. “We’re still growing.”
Dana stresses that Tailors’ Union Memphis is not a club or a nightclub. There are bars on both floors that serve specialty cocktails. They have regular cocktails like daiquiris and Old Fashioneds, but some cocktails are tailor-themed, with names like “The Full Measure” and “The Last Alteration.”
The menu of The Pocket was created by Chef Erica Bone, who previously worked at Spindini and Rizzo’s Diner. The menu features fried green tomatoes, Wagyu sliders, portobello sliders, Parmesan truffle fries and mini chicken ‘n’ waffles.
Like the jazz music that can be heard on Friday and Saturday nights at The Pocket, the appeal of a clandestine bar and laid-back hangout continued long after Prohibition was repealed. Tailors’ Union modernizes that concept, providing a relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere and something entirely new to the downtown Memphis scene.
Tailors’ Union is located at 115 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103. Hours are Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. For more information, call (901) 623-8567 or visit tailorsunionmemphis.com.
Tailors’ Union recently introduced a new event called Mix-ology on Wednesday nights, which is described as a “fusion of music, drinks and flavas.” Mix-ology lasts from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Check out this new hot spot, Memphis!
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