A slot opens in the door at about eye level.
“What’s the password?”
The voice is South Tyler Speakeasy’s general manager Mark Ruehrmund. He quickly laughs, says there isn’t really a password, then opens the door to a dimly lit bar with low ceilings, hanging Edison bulb lights and framed black-and-white photographs from the early 1900s covering the walls.
South Tyler Speakeasy is East Texas’ first Prohibition-era themed bar. Formerly the Half Moon Grill & Saloon, it reopened May 15 and now specializes in classic cocktails, whiskeys and American food. It’s is at 16884 Farm-to-Market Road 2493 (Old Jacksonville Road) in Tyler.
“You’ve got to find your niche in the bar business,” Ruehrmund said. “I’ve always been fascinated with the 1920s. The owner and I are big history buffs. ... You’ve got to do something that hasn’t been seen, that will catch someone’s eye and that you yourself will like.”
The building took five months to remodel, changing the floors, ceilings and fixtures to fit the theme. South Tyler Speakeasy has a pool room, 15 indoor televisions, an outside smoking porch and a stage for live music performances. The entire bar selection and menu have been reworked for the change.
“We’re working on preparing a variety of cocktails and drinks from the Prohibition era: bee’s knees, sidecars, cosmopolitans, things like that,” Ruehrmund said. “We also have high-end whiskeys that you can sample, a flight of three whiskeys. It’s the kind of whiskey sipping that actually goes back before Prohibition.”
They also have an entirely new staff of six servers and five bartenders, all cross-trained; but they are still looking for more kitchen staff to prepare their new menu of bar food: appetizers, burgers, etc.
“Anyone in their right minds doesn’t open a bar to make money,” Ruehrmund said. “We do it for the love of it.”
“We’ve been around for 13 years with the last place,” said owner Anthony Travato. “This place will be fine, too.”
This 21-and-up bar does have a dress code, prohibiting cutoffs and sleeveless shirts. And as its website adds, “Must wear shoes, boots, sandals or cement overshoes.”
Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturdays, and opening at noon on Sundays.