Knock quietly, say the password clearly and step back into the roaring '20s in downtown Aiken's new establishment – Speakeasy and Eats.
Joe and Arlene Iannelli, owners of Casa Bella Italian restaurant, are taking over the former Desserves Bakery space at 126 Laurens St. and turning it into an art deco speakeasy that will highlight a periodic jazz band, medallion spring lamb and roaring '20s toasties – chilled steak with a cheese spread.
Arlene said the eatery will aim to serve the lunch and dinner crowd, likely Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and sometimes until 12 a.m. on the weekends.
“Right now, I'm in the process of working with the building inspector and the fire marshal so that you have to knock on the door a certain way or need a code, because that's the way speakeasy's were back in the day,” Arlene said.
During the Prohibition years, cocktails were hidden and most were homemade behind blank doors, darkened windows and a shadowy ambience. Alcohol consumption may now be legal, but Aiken residents and visitors will still get the overall feel, according to Arlene.
“We were just brainstorming and we came up with the idea after someone had gone to New York and went to one – I thought it was a really cute idea,” Arlene said. “We just got our liquor license, and that takes about six to eight weeks to get through. So, hopefully, we're done in about an eight-week period.”
Those who want to dine will have to check social media periodically, likely Facebook, for an updated password to get in, once the restaurant opens.
“I think it's going to be a real asset to the downtown area,” Arlene said. “It's going to bring in more walking traffic and just overall traffic to the downtown area. We just love Aiken and it's going to be great.”
Maayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.