LONGMONT -- People sang and danced along to the live music. They conversed, staying out into the wee hours of the night, drinking and having fun. No one cared that alcohol was against the law in the Chicago speakeasies of the Roaring Twenties.
Prohibition was passed in 1919 and was intended to end the consumption of alcohol, but an unintended result was the birth of the speakeasy, a secret bar where people could escape to drink and have a good time.
Longmont residents now are able to step through a purple front door and back in time, since Sarah Carrillo opened the doors of The Speakeasy to the public last week.
The Speakeasy, at 301 Main St., opened after months of hard work put in grinding and leveling the concrete floors and removing decades worth of dirt and grime from every inch of the underground space. Newly installed chandeliers and mirrors enhance its vintage quality.
A stone flight of stairs leads from the street to the eye-catching purple door, which opens to reveal the main room that houses the bar and featuring purple couches. Farther ahead, the long, narrow "Shotgun Room" is capped at the end by the stage. Most of the original wood flooring has been restored, and the 2-foot-thick stone walls of the 1870s-era building ensure the music will not bother people playing pool in the adjacent game room. Local artist Gamma Acosta has painted a striking 3-D mural on one wall that features dancing flappers and dewdroppers from the '20s and makes the room seem nearly twice as large.
Carrillo went further than simply changing the furnishings in aiming to create an authentic feel for her Speakeasy.
"I'm emulating that '20s and '30s Prohibition Era," Carrillo said. "I'm encouraging my friends on Facebook to come in and dress the part."
Carrillo plans live performances for nearly every night of the week. People can show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays to sing karaoke, and on Fridays and Saturdays they can dance to live blues and jazz. Carrillo also plans on hosting comedy, spoken word and occasional burlesque shows.
Expect a dress code and a small cover charge on weekend nights, Carrillo said.
Carrillo moved to Colorado from Kenosha, Wis., when she was 20. She tended bar for several years and, after her parents died, she decided she wanted to open her own place.
"I had the theme, I wanted to do the '20s or '30s, but I didn't even know what a speakeasy was," Carrillo said.
When she saw the "for rent" sign on the basement of the old Imperial Hotel, she knew she had found her venue.
"The whole speakeasy thing is pretty cool; I didn't realize how big of a thing it was," she said. "The original speakeasies started in New York and Chicago. That's how I got the name, just in doing research for this building."
She signed a lease last March and, with the help of some friends, got to work on cleaning the place.
"We've done a lot of work in here, a lot of blood, sweat and tears," Carrillo said.