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Sunday, May 19, 2024

From Sunday School to Speakeasy

A hedge-laden door is tucked in an inconspicuous corner at the back of an 1860s Victorian house in Downtown Evansville. Its placement looks so natural that you wouldn’t notice it — unless you were looking for it. Inside, a darkened stairwell leads down to the basement and The Red Polka Dot.

Harking back to the era of Prohibition, this speakeasy-style spot started as coal storage for the home’s boiler. After considering several renovation options, the homeowners realized it was the perfect size for a private bar. The brick walls have been painted black and meet plush red carpet and a white shag rug. Exposed ductwork is camouflaged by twinkling lights and a veil of billowing black fabric. Hanging on the wall is a reproduction of a hand-drawn map of speakeasies in 1920s Harlem. Behind the bar, top-to-bottom shelving is fully stacked with an impressive liquor collection, including about 100 bottles of bourbon.

“We definitely wanted it to look like a speakeasy. We’ve been to several and really enjoyed the atmosphere,” say the homeowners, who remain unnamed here to preserve the speakeasy’s air of mystery.

Darin Evans, owner of D. Blacksmith Metal of Honor in Owensboro, Kentucky, fashioned the entrance handrail, martini glass table leg, and lighted speakeasy sign. Guests can walk away with coasters, T-shirts, and matchbooks emblazoned with The Red Polka Dot’s tagline: “If you’re invited, you’d know.”

The catch? They must promise not to share the speakeasy’s location.

▲ The Red Polka Dot features a full bar stocked with top-shelf distilled spirits, luxe decor, custom steelwork, cozy fireplace, sizable vinyl record collection, bartending book library, strands of lights strung across the veiled ceiling, and branded swag. The speakeasy is hidden from public view by a faux hedge, lending credence to its tagline: If you’re invited, you’d know.

The Red Polka Dot gets its moniker from the memory of its owners’ first meeting: As children, she visited his fifth-grade Sunday school class, resplendent in a white dress with red polka dots and a red hat. “My first thought was, that’s the girl I’m going to marry,” the homeowner says. They dated in high school, reunited in college, and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in 2019.

The speakeasy’s glamorous yet relaxed setting comfortably accommodates chatting with visiting friends, smoking cigars, enjoying a drink, or reading.

“You lose your sense of time down here; we discovered that while renovating,” the homeowner says. “It’s like being in a casino.”

But the best part about The Red Polka Dot? Well, you’ll have to be invited to find that out.

Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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