A couple of years ago, Dariush and Sarah Moslemi were sipping libations at Marvel Bar, the Minneapolis basement hideaway, when the familiar question hit them again.
Why didn’t Stillwater, their hometown, have a place like this?
They started making plans to fill the niche that night and in early August, Velveteen (123 2nd St. N., Stillwater, thevelveteenspeakeasy.com) debuted in a 3,000-square-foot underground space.
“We had a clear vision of what we wanted,” said Dariush Moslemi. “We wanted to create a Prohibition-era speakeasy with crafted cocktails, but also drinks that would be true to that era, something you could find at places similar to this in the 1920s.”
First, though, patrons have to actually find the bar. Velveteen has no sign outside the building, a former shoe manufacturing facility that now also houses a salon, a photography studio and an entertainment center. But etched in the concrete outside the main entrance is a “V,” and the words “Follow the rabbit.” After walking through the building’s front door, a series of rabbit images guides drinkers to the bar’s entrance.
“You have to jump through a few hoops to find us,” said Moslemi, who along with Sarah also owns Studio One yoga in downtown Stillwater. “You kind of have to know about it. But word of mouth spreads better than any marketing out there. The minute the sun goes down, we’re packed.”
Inside the Great Gatsby-style watering hole bedecked with opulent chandeliers, Metropolis wallpaper and dripping candles, revelers lounge in blue velvet booths, belly up to an ebony-stained stone bar and rest drinks on whiskey barrels.
Cocktails include staples such as Negronis, whiskey smashes and vieux carrés as well as their own concoctions, using ingredients such as curry, jalapeños and buttered popcorn-infused whiskey. Wine and beer, poured from a moonshine still, are also available, as well as a modest tapas-style menu featuring Mediterranean, Latin, American and Asian dishes.
Velveteen is open Wednesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.