TYLER, Texas (KETK) — Culture ETX in downtown Tyler is just a restaurant for now, but in a few weeks, there will be a secret hangout hiding behind the restaurant.

“Tyler needs a speakeasy, everywhere needs a speakeasy,” said owner Lance McWhorter with a chuckle.

McWhorter also owns Culture ETX and says he plans to bring a new spin to East Texas nightlife.

“Really the only thing I think that Tyler was waiting for was the right space for a speakeasy to be in, and so we got it,” added McWhorter.

The term “speakeasy” arose from the Prohibition era, and was used to describe establishments that sold liquor illegally.

McWhorter’s speakeasy will be in a former apartment directly behind his restaurant. He’s calling it The Plaid Rabbit, pulling inspiration from his travels around the world.

“It’s kind of like a 1930’s Los Angeles film noir meets steampunk with a little dose of Alice and Wonderland mixed in,” explained McWhorter.

Here’s how it works:

You enter through Culture ETX, give a password and walk to the back of the restaurant where you’ll be led inside a janitor’s closet.

From there the hostess guides you into the bar.

“Probably weekly or bi-weekly we’ll update the password and so everybody kind of has to follow along,” said McWhorter.

The password will be posted on their social media pages, and he said it’s important to pay attention to when they change because it’s the only way you’re getting in.

The speakeasy is open to anyone, but there are also four membership levels that offer exclusive event access and more.

The new speakeasy is generating a lot of excitement around Tyler, with younger East Texans ready for new options.

“I think if they execute it right, it could be like the next step up to adding cooler places to Tyler,” said 22-year-old Sarah Heatley.

McWhorter is also hoping his new bar sparks some more innovation in East Texas.

“I hope that that inspires all these operators to not be afraid to do their own thing,” said McWhorter. “More than anything, I hope that it inspires people from outside of Tyler to come in and share their experiences and their talents with us here.”

He’s hoping opening day will be the weekend before Halloween.


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