Speakeasy replaces red-light district in the heart of downtown Phoenix

Although it has been almost 83 years since prohibition was repealed, a speakeasy has opened in the basement of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Open since Jan. 1, Melinda’s Alley is a pop-up bar that specializes in cocktails, history and a relaxed atmosphere.

The name Melinda’s Alley refers to the space between Monroe and Adams streets on Central Avenue where the bar’s entrance is located.

Once home to Phoenix’s red-light district, the bar takes inspiration from the area’s history, and the entrance is indicated by a single red light over double-doors. They lead down two flights of stairs to a dimly lit establishment bathed in soft red light with antiquated decor and furnishings in keeping with the speakeasy theme.

The atmosphere, a cash-only bar with a maximum capacity of 45 guests at a time, harkens back to the exclusivity and secrecy of speakeasies' past. Guests patiently line up in the alley for the bouncer to give them the green light to enter.

Shaina Pryor, food and beverage manager for the Renaissance Hotel, said the environment is low-key and relaxed. 

“It’s something that can start your night or end your evening," she said. "It’s something a little different."

The menu consists of only the evening’s concoctions, which are written in chalk on the wall, and on the same space guests are invited to draw whatever they desire while enjoying the drinks of the night.

“Even if you don’t like a certain spirit, the bartenders can talk you through our offering for the night and find you something that you’ll like," Pryor said.

Renaissance Hotel mixologist Dustin Bolin said the aging basement hallway the bar occupies dates back 60 years, and was part of the foundation for the long-gone Adams Street Hotel. Bolin said the hallway was once storage space for the Renaissance Hotel, which owns and operates Melinda's Alley.

As the resident mixologist and lead bartender for Melinda’s Alley, Bolin said he faces a unique challenge that sets the speakeasy apart from other downtown drinking establishments.

“I have to come up with six new cocktails weekly,” Bolin said. “No beer or wine. We barely even do shots. We really try to give the best of our ability every week. No vodka sodas.”

Examples of the bar’s specialty cocktails include the Midnight Madam, made with mesquite-smoked pineapple, bourbon and lemon juice; the Sultry Sage is made with Scandinavian liqueur aquavit, egg white and sage spirit.

The average price of a drink is $12, but well worth the price for fans of craft cocktails. Aside from the six cocktails, the bar doesn't serve any kind of food, but guests are invited to go upstairs to dine in the hotel's restaurant.

Melinda’s Alley is open on Friday and Saturday evenings from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.


Reach the reporter at idickins@asu.edu or follow @sailormouthed92 on Twitter.

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