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Underground cocktail bar opens Thursday in downtown Raleigh

Posted April 13

Watts and Ward, a new craft cocktail bar, in the basement of Caffe Luna in downtown Raleigh, will open its doors Thursday evening.

The sprawling, 6,000 square-foot space on Blount and Hargett streets is an homage to the prohibition era speakeasy bars. The members-only club (membership is $1) took nearly a year to complete. It previously served as a women's shelter, but had been vacant for five years before construction started on Watts and Ward.

"I knew what I wanted to do with the space. I fell in love with the subterranean architecture," said co-owner Patrick Shanahan, whose family acquired the building in 2007.

Traveling the country for film school, Shanahan said his ideas for the space's design really grew.

"I kind of brought a little bit of all of these cities back here," he said.

Shanahan met Niall Hanley, who owns Hibernian Co., when he was doing a mural and artwork for the entrepreneur's Raleigh Beer Garden.

"He approached me after the beer garden opened. We came down here," Hanley said. "I thought it was very unique and cool."

So, the two teamed up on the project and set out to make the vacant underground space into a speakeasy-style nightclub.

"It's such a large space. You think of speakeasies as very small," Shanahan said. "We wanted to keep that small environment. The space was naturally cut out by the brick structures that existed."

Take a 360 degree tour of Watts and Ward

What developed were caverns and little nooks with couches, chairs and spaces to just hang out and have a drink.

"We wanted to create these little pockets of experiences for people," Shanahan said. "So, we separated it into three different sections."

The first section is the brightest and is designed to reflect the mid-1950s. The second area is designed to reflect the industrial era, while the final room, the library, is all about the late 1800s and early 1900s. Old books, shoes and even an old cash register help give this final room its charm.

The last room is also home to an old bar from a church in Pittsburgh.

"It is hand-carved walnut," Hanley said.

There is also an outdoor space, which includes a lawn. It will be home to various events and live music, Hanley said.

Watts and Ward, 200 S. Blount St., opens Thursday at 4 p.m.

1 Comment

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  • Gregory A. Peterson Apr 14, 6:17 a.m.
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    I thought the city of Raleigh was of the belief that basement bars and clubs was inherently unsafe....

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