Es­cape back to Pro­hi­bi­tion at Speakeasy

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Local News - By Tara Boz­ick Staff writer

New es­cape room is an im­mer­sive, the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence

A 1920s-themed en­ter­tain­ment at­trac­tion is com­ing to down­town Hampton.

“From the mo­ment you en­ter the room, you’re trans­ported back in time,” said co-owner Alan Stone, 30, of Newport News. “We’re try­ing for that com­plete en­vi­ron­men­tal re­ac­tion. It’s ev­ery­thing from the sound­track to the aes­thetic of the room to the puz­zles. We do our best to recre­ate some­thing from that time or that story.”

Stone, along with Hampton na­tive and part­ner Nick Ma­jor, 33, are open­ing Speakeasy Es­cape Room at 26 W. Queens Way as an im­mer­sive, the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. Par­tic­i­pants can come dressed in their fa­vorite 1920s garb, or bor­row in-house cos­tumes. The two men also own the 2-year-old Colo­nial Es­cape near Busch Gar­dens Wil­liams­burg.

So-called es­cape rooms be­came pop­u­lar on the Penin­sula over the past few years as a form of so­cial gam­ing. Groups of friends or fam­i­lies work to­gether to solve var­i­ous puz­zles to meet some sort of ob­jec­tive or “es­cape” a room based on a story line, typ­i­cally within an hour. Vis­i­tors are not ac­tu­ally locked in a room, though.

In its props and room stag­ing, Speakeasy, which is hold­ing an open house on Satur­day, takes vis­i­tors back to the Pro­hi­bi­tion era of 1920-33, when mak­ing or sell­ing al­co­hol was no longer le­gal in the U.S

Vis­i­tors hang out and start their jour­ney in the swanky club-look­ing lobby called Blind Tiger — an­other name for a speakeasy back in the day.

In the room called Shine Shack, par­tic­i­pants need to solve puz­zles to hide in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence and es­cape be­fore the po­lice bust into the Blind Tiger. In the Ghastly Flap­per area, par­tic­i­pants are on a mis­sion to find a miss­ing per­former by find­ing clues on stage, back­stage and in her dress­ing room.

And for those who want to take their adventure out­side, Speakeasy of­fers scav­enger hunts that lead par­tic­i­pants on a search for clues around down­town Hampton. The venue is open­ing with three hunts, in­clud­ing one called “The Artist and the Ar­chi­tect” that uses the down­town mu­rals and ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures, Ma­jor said. The scav­enger hunts in­clude puz­zles, and par­tic­i­pants end back at Speakeasy for an es­cape-room ex­pe­ri­ence.

Speakeasy does not sell al­co­hol but plans to rent out the Blind Tiger for photo shoots and small par­ties, the part­ners said. Stone and Ma­jor said they wanted to open their next busi­ness in a pedes­trian-friendly area.

“It’s all about hav­ing fun,” Ma­jor said.

Scott Wal­ley, 28, of Hampton, tried out Speakeasy with a group of friends when the busi­ness put out a call for testers.

“It looks pretty au­then­tic com­pared to some of the other es­cape rooms,” said Wal­ley, who has com­pleted five oth­ers.

Ray Walsh, CEO of cor­po­rate video com­pany Metro Pro­duc­tions, lo­cated across the street, said he would like to see more store­fronts down­town and that es­cape rooms typ­i­cally at­tract all ages. He also owns the down­town His­toric Post Of­fice build­ing where an artist is fin­ish­ing a mu­ral by mid-Novem­ber.

“Any­thing that can cre­ate a lit­tle buzz for the down­town, I’m happy for,” Walsh said.

Af­ter open­ing, hours will be 4:30-10 p.m. Fri­day and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Satur­day and Sun­day. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit 757-2246044 or visit speakeasyescape.com. Boz­ick can be reached by phone at 757-247-4741. Sign up for a free week­day busi­ness news email at TidewaterBiz.com or fol­low @TidewaterBiz.

JU­DITH LOW­ERY PHO­TOS/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Alan Stone, right, and Nick Ma­jor in the Speakeasy Es­cape Room’s flap­per room. The es­cape room will open soon in down­town Hampton.

Em­ployee Tif­fany Gaudiello walks through Speakeasy Es­cape Room.

Cock­tail para­pher­na­lia from the 1920s and ’30s is part of the Pro­hi­bi­tion-themed dec­o­ra­tion at the Speakeasy Es­cape Room.

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