Downtown Aiken will roar back to the 1920s in March with the opening of a new speakeasy-style restaurant.
“You’ll have to have a pass code to get in the door,” said Heather Iannelli, a partner in the restaurant. “It’s kind of like a modern twist on a speakeasy.”
Aiken Speakeasy & Eats is set to open at 126 Laurens St. NW, in the former Desserves bakery storefront, by mid-March, said owner Arlene Iannelli.
Diners will be prompted to punch in a password at the door in order to get an invite inside as was customary in the Prohibition era for patrons looking to gain access into private taverns and other establishments serving alcohol.
The mother-daughter team said the password will likely change monthly and can be found on the restaurant’s Facebook page, Aiken Speakeasy and Eats, in newspaper advertisements, by calling the restaurant at (803) 226-0147, by word of mouth or just by knocking on the door.
“If someone really wants to get in and doesn’t have the code, all they really have to do is knock on the door and we’ll give it to them,” said Arlene Iannelli.
The restaurant will employ a staff of about 20 people.
Arlene Iannelli has owned Casa Bella Italian Restaurant, also in Aiken, for seven years. She and husband Joe started the Italian eatery after moving from Stuart, Fla., where they also owned restaurants.
The idea to open the speakeasy originated in July after a server at Casa Bella visited a similar establishment in New York City and filled the Iannellis in on the details.
“It’s really just a fun concept,” Heather Iannelli said.
Since the summer, the family has been renovating the space to include a full-service bar, art deco accents, and room for about 100 diners.
The restaurant also will feature live jazz and blues music.
Aiken Speakeasy & Eats will be open for both lunch and dinner but will be closed on Mondays.