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The Old Arcade, A Secret Cocktail Bar Inside Caffe Martier, Brings Delray's Original Speakeasy Back To Life

There's a new secret place to grab a drink in town, but some would say it's an old secret, too.

Here's how to find it: Head to Caffe Martier in Delray Beach, and take a detour around to the back alley. There, you'll find a door with a lit-up sign marked: The Old Arcade.

Enter, and you'll be drinking in the same space where Delray's original speakeasy supplied thirsty patrons during the Prohibition era.

Though it has been quietly open for the past month, The Old Arcade will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, Dec. 5, appropriately timed to coincide with Prohibition Repeal Day. The evening will feature live music and a costume contest for the best dressed couple.

"Dress is smart casual, but it's preferred that you come in looking like you belong in a speakeasy," bar manager James Serra said.

Serra, who comes to Delray with experience manning bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan—including at "Top Chef" judge Tom Colicchio's Craft—said his aim with The Old Arcade is to serve classic cocktail recipes with a twist. 

For example, the Prospect Park is Serra's take on a Manhattan, to which he adds a sweetener that's his secret recipe. He also prepares a Mai Tai with a bold banana flavor and homemade Orgeat sweet tiki syrup made from blanched pistachios instead of almonds.

"My apartment looks exactly like this bar—herbs and spices and jars everywhere. … It's basically like a chemistry lab for me," he said. "When I saw this before I even heard the history of it, I was like, 'This is it. This is home.'"

So what's the whole backstory behind The Old Arcade, anyway?

An architect put up the Arcade Building on the site of a former pineapple farm, with Arcade Restaurant and Market operating inside. A secret back room was built into it, where those who wanted could meet up and drink during the Prohibition era.

"There was a password because we had to trust you in order for us to serve you; otherwise we couldn't tell if you were going to tell the police," Serra explained.

After the repeal of the nationwide alcohol ban, Arcade Tap Room officially opened to the public and continued operating into the late '80s or early '90s, according to Caffe Martier managing partner Lisa Councilman's research.

The most recent owner of the space, the recently shuttered Brazilian restaurant Gol!, essentially used the site as a storage room and occasional private events space. Even as Caffe Martier expanded and took over the location, it temporarily became a juice bar.

Now, The Old Arcade space has been updated with new equipment and furniture from Rustic Rooster, but plaques with the names of frequent drinkers from the original Arcade Tap Room—including hockey player Bobby Orr—still line the wall, and most of the original elements remain.

Serra also noted that guests can still even identify a few darkened wood panels, which led to a staircase with an underground connection to The Colony Hotel, as a quick escape route when the cops came.

For now, operating hours are Thursday through Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., but The Old Arcade is also available for private events. A live band will perform every Friday and Saturday night. Plus, password-only parties will be taking place for Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

To attend the Repeal Day Romp at The Old Arcade, RSVP to theoldarcade@yahoo.com with the total number of guests, and you'll receive a password to enter the speakeasy.

The Old Arcade; 411 E Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach

Check out some photos of the space, below. (Lead image courtesy Nicole Danna, all others courtesy James Serra.)

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