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Volstead's Speakeasy: Why I've never been, and why I'll never go

NOT Volstead's. We couldn't get in, remember?

NOT Volstead's. We couldn't get in, remember?

Word started floating around the internet, "Look for a creepy door in a creepy alley."

What could possibly be more appealing? 

The word "speakeasy" automatically drips with intrigue. Infuse a party with secrecy, with the anxiety that you might be too uncool to find it or be deemed unworthy of entrance, and the party automatically becomes doubly cool. People are gluttons for punishment. 

But wait, it's the opposite of that, isn't it? It's the notion of exclusivity that appeals. The promise that you'll be picked, over the rest of the plebes, to walk through that secret door, head held high while the rest of the rubes shiver in the cold night air. 

We'd been told by a few who'd been to Volstead's that the now not-so-secret speakeasy was located behind the S&M shop on Lake Street, that it was old-timey and charming, that there was live jazz, and that it was really fun. We wanted to go. 

After performing the Sisyphean feat of parking in the Lyn/Lake neighborhood and clomping through the ice banks in our fancy shoes, we easily found that creepy door in that creepy alley. It's sort of a cartoonish steely door with big bolts and an eye slot, ostensibly where a guy can peer out at you, but not you at him. Are you one of the anointed? Perhaps the door will swing open. But then, perhaps not. 

Missy the bartender at Skarda's Bar. No waiting out in the cold.

Missy the bartender at Skarda's Bar. No waiting out in the cold.

A fairly significant queue of quietly shuffling hopefuls had formed in the frigid air, next to the dumpsters and dreary brick surroundings of the alley. By comparison, the warm, fluorescent confines of a Walmart would seem charming. Perhaps that's the point. After being forced to linger in below-zero temps adjacent to a garbage heap, the experience inside couldn't help but impress. 

Every few minutes, the door would swing open, and a couple would be let inside, or not. It was up to the whim of the selective bouncer. Try to approach the door from the outside yourself, and you'll find it utterly locked. 

Soon, we retreated, only to return the following week to an identical scene. 

There comes a time in a person's life when getting "picked' loses its appeal. You're no longer interested in having a guy convince you that you're more special than all the rest. You're older now, you're cranky about it, and your feet hurt.

Unless it somehow becomes cool to dangle snow boots off of a vintage barstool, you won't return to the speakeasy. Anyway, you'll never get "picked" while wearing those. 

There's a salty humiliation that goes along with soberly retreating from a would-be evening out, high heels stubbornly piercing the snowbank, with a pocket full of cash unspent. When an evening out is more anomaly than regularity, a person wants to make sure the trouble of the hustle is worth her while. 

We took our cash and headed over to Skarda's Bar on West Seventh in St. Paul, where the booze always flows cheap and abundant, where Missy the bartender is always happy you came, and where all the people are always welcome.

Wear your snow boots if you want, but either way, there's no waiting out in the cold. 

Volstead's Super Secret Speakeasy 

No address 

No phone 

No website

No sign

Look for the silly door in the dark alley, and the line of shivering hopefuls behind the S&M shop on Lake Street in Uptown.