Raines Law Room is a Speakeasy located on 17th street between 5th and 6th.
The speakeasy is similar to the other’s off The List: The Back Room and Milk & Honey, in that it is a concealed location and resembles a 1920’s Prohibition Era drinking establishment. Raines Law Room is an underground bar that you enter from a set of stairs off the sidewalk. In order to be let in, you ring the doorbell and wait to be greeted, which can take anywhere from a minute to an hour, depending on how busy they are.
A distinguishing feature of Raines is the crowd control they enforce by only allowing walk-ins to have a drink at the bar…and by bar, they mean small kitchen where you surround an island with about 10 other people and the bartenders. On a Tuesday night at 6, we were able to go straight to the “bar” with no wait and have a drink. If you are tentative to take the walk-in approach you can make reservations on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays only.
Raines Law Room cocktails are made by mixologists, who master the art of bar tending. The drinks are on the pricey side, around thirteen to fifteen dollars, but given small crowd and great vibe it is enjoyable to sip a delicious cocktail and enjoy a good conversation.
Raines Law Room
48 West 17th Street NY, NY 10010
A Little History…
Rains Law Room is aptly named after The Raines Law which was passed on March 23, 1896 by the New York State Legislature. The law was a nominal liquor tax, but its intention was to curb the consumption of alcohol by imposing regulations. Among other provisions, it prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday – except in hotels.
Most men worked a six-day week, and Sunday was the only full day for drinking at saloons. Under the law, however, hotels were allowed to serve liquor in Sunday, to guests only, provided it was served during a meal, in the bedrooms of the hotel. State statutes allow that any business was considered a hotel if it had 10 rooms for lodging and served food with its liquor.
Saloons quickly found a loophole by adding small furnished bedrooms and applying for a hotel license. Dozens of “Raines Law Hotels,” often located directly above saloons, opened. The saloons also mocked the law by serving “Brick Sandwiches” which were literally two pieces of bread with a brick between them, which fulfilled the the legal requirement of serving food.
As a contemporary source put it, “This offered a premium on the transformation of salons into hotels with bedrooms and led to unlooked-for evils,” i.e. an increase in prostitution, as the rooms in many of the “Rains Law Hotels” were used mostly by prostitutes and unmarried couples.