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Now open: Speakeasy Public House
Spokeasy Public House was an idea born like so many of your own. You’re sitting around, and it’s late-ish, and you’re maybe drinking a beer or two (or more) and someone says, “You know what would be cool?” Everyone swings their heads toward this someone and he starts in on how he would love to open a place (a bar) that had beer (craft beer) and lots of it. And also, it would have arcade games (Donkey Kong and Ms. Pacman. Like the sit-down table-top version) and maybe even a skeelball machine. If he could one for cheap. It would be a neighborhood place, walking or bicycling distance, and he would run it, so it would be cool and not snobby. And this is such a great idea everyone in unison thinks: “We have go to make this happen.”
Which is what Mike Unguez and Ben Kloos did. They signed the lease on first of January and opened Spokeasy last Saturday night in space on Van Ness Avenue, a strip that Kloos sees as the Tower District’s (sort of) red-headed step child. Sure, the bar is not on Olive Avenue (or even on Wishon!) but there are synergies to be had. It’s just down from Audie’s Olympic, next door to The Broken Leg Stage and across the street from Van Ness Village, which has it own share of stuff happening (Death or Glory Tattoo, the Covenant Barbershop). Kloos hopes the package will attract foot traffic.
It’s taken two months to get the place in working order. There was some demolition to be done and some remodeling. They built and installed tables from wood and old pipes they got from a warehouse downtown and they had to track down a skee ball machine. They found one at an auction in Hanford and hauled it back to Fresno before they realized it was broken and fixed it.So, that was a learning process, Kloos says. As was the grand-opening night. It was a success, if you go by the amount of beer sold (almost all of it), but the place couldn’t open the next day because the distributors don’t run on Sundays and they had nothing left to sell (not the worst problem to have).
And it is still a work in progress. They’d like to have 50 beers — as opposed to the 20 they have now have on tap and in bottles (Stone, Tioga-Sequoia, Firestone Walker). The menu is written out on chalk board behind the bar and names get crossed off as the beer runs out. Once they get some money saved up, they’re get back on Craigslist and find some more arcade games (right now it’s Donkey Kong, Galaga and Mortal Kombat). The back room has plenty of space for it. There’s also a patio that Kloos would like to clean up and have open, which would be great for those hot summer nights when you’re sitting around with friends, maybe drinking a beer or two (or more) and someone says “You know what would be cool?”