Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 3/16/17
In today’s world full of crisp, black and white modernity, people are relishing speakeasy-style venues — equipped with jazz music, secret doors and vintage attire — more than ever before.
Although many bars and restaurants have dressed themselves up to be of the 1920s Great Gatsby era, Hotel Bethlehem, a historic hotel in downtown Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the real deal — and they are celebrating the era through a slew of Roaring ’20s events throughout April.
The month’s events will culminate on Friday, April 28 with the hotel’s second annual Roaring ’20s Ball, where guests are invited to dress in a ’20s theme to enjoy a four-course dinner prepared by Chef Michael Adams with a cocktail hour and open bar from 6 to 11 p.m. in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom while they listen and dance to the Hot Club of Philadelphia, a well-known jazz band, and watch the MagnoliaSadies, known for their authentic performances of ‘20s-style dancing.
“The décor will completely transform the Grand Ballroom, allowing guests to feel as if they are reliving a night in the ‘20s at Hotel Bethlehem,” said Brynn Levine, marketing coordinator for Hotel Bethlehem.
The menu will feature hors d’oeuvres during the cocktail hour, including deviled eggs, mushroom toast and shrimp cucumber with mango passion fruit, followed by a first course of Caesar salad, a second course of a “dressed up” fruit cup, a third course of steak Oscar with asparagus and mashed potatoes and a fourth course of pineapple upside-down cake.
There are 200 tickets available for the event, which start at $139 plus tax per person or $259 plus tax per couple, and those who wish to purchase tickets can email Levine at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-625-2234.
“We had this event for the first time last year, and it really took off and we sold out within a week,” said Levine. “It’s a very special event for the Hotel since we opened in 1922, plus this year, we are celebrating our 95th anniversary.”
Levine said that in planning this event for the first time last year, Hotel Bethlehem realized that people were looking for a place to not only to drink and eat, but to also dance and enjoy good music. And since the speakeasy theme is something people are very into right now, Hotel Bethlehem realized that they already had the perfect setting, since they have hosted many other balls in the past such as Marine balls and debutante balls.
Besides the Roaring ’20s Ball, Hotel Bethlehem is also offering several other themed specials and events throughout April, such as their speakeasy package, which starts at $299 and will go up upon availability and includes a three-course dinner in the Tap Room, two complimentary cocktails and breakfast.
In true speakeasy style, guests who purchase the package will receive a secret password upon their arrival that they will use to access the speakeasy menu, which is not being released to the public.
Besides the speakeasy package, Hotel Bethlehem will also be featuring Roaring ’20s bands throughout the month during their Thursday jazz nights such as the Musette Project on April 6, the Hot Club of Philadelphia on April 13 and the Blackbird Society Orchestra on April 27,as well as specialty-themed cocktails in the Tap Room such as the Mary Pickford with rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and maraschino liqueur, as well as the Fresh 75 with gin, champagne and lemon juice. Plus, ’20s-style swing dance lessons from the Gas House Dance Hall will be held on Friday, April 14 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. for $25 per person that can also be purchased by contacting Levine.
As part of Hotel Bethlehem’s long and storied past, there’s another interesting aspect to add to the ’20s atmosphere — the hotel housed a real speakeasy in the lower lobby during the Prohibition era, not included in the hotel blueprints.
The Hotel Bethlehem historian came across a photo from an auction of a Prohibition-style doorway with the hotel name on it, and upon inspection from managers, they realized that the photo was of the current lost-and-found hallway, which is simply a skinny hallway that would have appeared to be a housekeeping hallway during its time as a speakeasy.
To pay homage to its history, Hotel Bethlehem hosts free 45-minute historical tours every Saturday at 10 a.m. and they showcase photos of how the guestrooms and hotel have changed throughout the years as well as the signatures of the original shareholders in their Hall of History in the lower lobby.
“We are seen as like a community country club,” said Levine. “We have done a great job of modernizing the Hotel while also keeping with the historic feel.”
Hotel Bethlehem Roaring ’20s Ball
Where: 437 Main St, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
When: Friday, April 28 from 6 to 11 p.m.
Cost: $139 plus tax per person or $259 plus tax per couple
Reservations: Email Brynn Levine at email@example.com or call 610-625-2234
Other ’20s-themed events: Speakeasy package starts at $299 and will go up upon availability and includes a three-course dinner in the Tap Room, two complimentary cocktails and breakfast; Roaring ’20s bands on Thursday jazz nights; ’20s-style swing dance lessons on Friday, April 14 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. for $25 per person