Captain Charles Kenneth was the only authentic speakeasy bar in San Diego that I know of. During the Prohibition era of the 1920’s and 30’s, one of Carlsbad’s most famous Victorian homes was providing a secret space for people to booze and socialize. The man behind it was Eddie Ketner.
In 1910, Ketner purchased the property and turned it into a successful hotel and restaurant for 60 years, known as the Twin Inns. During its heyday, the inn is said to have hosted many famous celebrities, including Babe Ruth and Amelia Earhart.
Only a few months after Ketner purchased the property, the prohibition era began. Like any good businessman, he had connections though. Further south at the U.S. Grant Hotel, bootlegging alcohol through a series of underground tunnels beneath the hotel was serious biz.
Inspired by the profits the Grant was receiving, Kettner created his own monetizing source via a secret bar beneath his own hotel. Thanks to the train station that was built nearby, there was never a shortage of customers.
Upon entering this secret passageway, you would first have to pass a slaughterhouse, which was used to slaughter chickens that would be served in the restaurant above. Once past the slaughterhouse, there were several secret doors which led to a bar and gambling tables. There were bells connected from the top of the house to below and with one switch, the speakeasy could be alerted if they needed to hide the liquor bottles and all evidence of illegal fun.
Fast forward today: current lease holder, Rob Ruiz found the underground speakeasy on accident while remodeling the interior. He’d heard all the rumors but once he found old coins, liquor bottles and mason jars, he was able to put the rumors to rest. Now over 100 years later, a new speakeasy sits in its place.
I’m not going to give many details away, but will say that you need a password to enter and it changes daily. To obtain the password you must go through their Instagram page. Unlike most of the speakeasies in San Diego and around the U.S., the Captain Charles Kenneth has captured what a true speakeasy most likely looked like back in the day.
Don’t expect fancy features here. The entrance itself looks like you’re about to enter a haunted house or somewhere where a lot could go wrong. The bouncer that leads you to the actual bar is filled with knowledge though and will give you a thorough tour leading up to it. The decor inside includes an old saloon-style piano, Victorian lamps and dim, red lighting. Perfect for intimate conversation.
There is a list of 1920’s style rules that you must abide by while here, which include a strict guest code and gentlemanly etiquette if you wish to introduce yourself to a lady. There is no wine or beer carried here either. In spirit of the Prohibition era, only spirits are served. They serve some serious artistically-crafted cocktails though that really turn this entire trip into a memorable experience.
Here is a shot of the old, Victorian Inn. Now, can you figure out where the speakeasy is?
Once inside, you will be given a short but highly informative tour. I believe this room was once the slaughter house for the chickens which were served as meals in the restaurant above:
That’s a photo of Captain Kenneth Charles on the right:
We got here early before it got packed. It made it a lot easier to get the photos I needed:
No flash photography and it’s dimly lit. I probably should have brought my tripod. Oh well!
The drinks were SUPER delicious!
Exiting the bar. Such a cool experience!
What a beauty at night!