Today’s Y&H column looks at the difficulty of getting a drink at Eastern Market’s new 1920s-style “speakeasy” Harold Black, which doesn’t publish its number and only accepts reservations via text message.
It turns out Harold Black isn’t the only bar that’s used a secret phone number. PX also didn’t publish its digits when it opened in Alexandria in 2006, but it abandoned the approach within nine months because of the bar was so empty.
“Most of the business was walk-up at the beginning, because no one could ever get a hold of the phone number,” says owner/mixologist Todd Thrasher. People who lived far away didn’t want to just show up if they didn’t know whether they’d be able to snag a seat. Even when they did get the number and call, there usually wasn’t anyone around to answer it, Thrasher says. “Everyone would complain they can’t get in.”
PX would get only 10 to 15 people on an average night back then. “That’s not economically viable for any business,” Thrasher says. “I was losing bartenders because they weren’t making money.”
The bar then switched to an online reservation system (now hosted through CityEats). Eight seats are also now set aside for walk-ins.
“We’re lucky now,” Thrasher says. “Every night of the week we’re full.”