Pretentious Hipster Places I’ve Been #1: Please Don’t Tell

Hello, and welcome to my new series, entitled ‘Pretentious Hipster Places I’ve been’. It’s fairly self explanatory.

So, without further adieu…

Sometimes, you just really want a drink. But you know when you really want, like, an overpriced drink you have to book a table for days in advance? One where you can’t just go in and get your drink easily, but you really have to earn it? And one where you get to piss off a hotdog shop owner into the bargain?

Then Please Don’t Tell is for you!

In the era of prohibition, alcohol was banned. Strict control was placed on what the public could and could not consume and fun was essentially non-existent. Speakeasies were massively illegal, but the only way one could have a drink if one felt so inclined. They were basically hidden bars, but ones you’d be arrested if you were found in. And now, harking back to that golden age of misery and grimness, speakeasies are making a comeback. Because who doesn’t enjoy a drink more with the niggling thought of ‘ooh, I could get arrested for this’, or ‘oh, this illegal alcohol may or may not be poisonous’, or ‘ooh, this tastes so much better when I know that all of my civil liberties have been ripped away from me’. Admittedly, these are less likely to be issues now but the speakeasy is a throwback to a time of depression and lack of freedom, and how they became glamorous and sexy completely eludes me.

The other thing I don’t understand about the speakeasy is why you can’t just go in, sit down, order alcohol, drink your alcohol, pay for your alcohol, and then go to work, like any normal bar. Instead you have to knock in a particular fashion, or use a password, or flash your bits at a certain window (to be fair, that’ll get you in most places). And again, this harks back to a time when it was that, or get your arse thrown in jail. People weren’t just doing it because it was fun. They were doing it because there was literally not one single other option.

Anyway, I digress.

Please Don’t Tell’s little ‘ooh-aren’t-we-so-subversive-it’s-almost-like-the-olden-days-except-for-the-bit-where-nobody-gets-punished’ gimmick is that you have to dial a phone to get in, and then the other side of the phone booth opens, and you’re allowed in. Provided you’re skinny enough to get through an 18-inch-wide door, which basically guarantees that PDT (Oh yes, they’re so cool they sometimes just use initials) is only ever full of attractive, elegant, non-clumsy people. Me? I was on the cusp as, while technically skinny enough, I did manage to bash myself in the boob on the way through the door.

I wouldn’t necessarily object to the whole phoning thing if the owners didn’t also make it abundantly clear that you have to phone days in advance to book a table in the first place. That is, unless you don’t mind turning up at 10pm. And waiting in a queue until 2am. On a weeknight.

The queue in question is in a hot dog shop, and you’ve never seen irritated until you’ve seen a hot dog shop owner watching twenty people stand around in his shop for hours on end and not buy one single hot dog.

Once you’ve managed to haul your carcass through the tiny gap in the wall, you’re greeted with… a bar. Just your run-of-the-mill, dingy bar. Sure, there’s no music, and everyone’s being thoroughly over-charged for drinkswhich puts off some of the more ‘uncouth’ (read: entertaining, interesting, fun…) sections of society, so it’s quiet at least. It’s strange, though. You’d think after all of the 1920s misinformation the bar’s modus operandi is based on from the outside, you might be able to expect Jodie Foster firing a splurge gun at you on the inside (though I hear she’s not into that these days).

The drinks, while quite possibly all very nice, cost the same as a full meal, in some cases. I’ll come clean and admit that the day we visited PDT I was in something of a grump (I know. Gasp. Who’d have thought?) And decided I was getting the cheapest drink on the menu and making it last as, at that stage, I was torn between not wanting to dignify the place with my money and, well, embracing the aforementioned grump. And so Please Don’t Tell reduced me to drinking fancy beer. Not my favourite activity. I’m slowly getting there under patient tuition, but as my ‘tutor’ is based in another state, I was on my own.

I actually don’t think I chose too badly. I felt all kinds of smug when my human-sized glass was brought out on a tray with some teeny-tiny elf-sized receptacles with liquid gold in. Or I assume that’s what it was, based on the price.

Oh, did I mention I have an overactive inner-cheapskate? You might have noticed. But it was fine, though, because I temporarily drowned her in beer.

And after that, you’re left with the issue of conversation. Normally, this is not an issue at all, as one invaruably goes to these places with friends, but when you’ve poured your heart, soul and time into being allowed to enter the bar, and then spent that week’s rent on being in the bar, then talking about anything else suddenly seems wasteful. PDT is full of table of people reassuring each other that “it’s really cool here” over and pver in hundreds of different ways.

And that’s precisely what it is. Please Don’t Tell is cool. And I’m decidedly not. Maybe I’m just jealous.

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