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Grubby alley wouldn't do for the entrance to a speakeasy at a luxury hotel, so developer of new Raffles tower in the Back Bay is planning what could be world's first 'sky speakeasy'

The Raffles Hotel and condo tower under construction on Trinity Place behind the Hancock Building will feature several places to get a drink, including what developer Jordan Warshaw says will be a "sky speakeasy," possibly the first in the world, some 200 feet and 17 stories up.

At a Boston Licensing Board hearing this morning, Warshaw said the 35-story building will have 147 Raffles hotel rooms and 108 condos - 38 of them "pied a terre" units for people who need a studio-sized space for when they jet into Boston for a holiday or business trip.

Warshaw said he's expecting the tower to be open for occupancy by mid-2023.

Warshaw is seeking an overall liquor license for the building, which his attorney, Andrew Upton, said will feature five separate dining areas, including a marquee two-story restaurant with 170 to 200 seats to be run by a "local fine-dining chef" who has yet to be selected, as well as a patisserie and the sky speakeasy on the 17th floor.

Speakeasies originated during Prohibition, when people would knock on a grubby little door and provide a password for admission. These days, admission to modern speakeasies more typically simply means knowing which "walk-in freezer" or similar door to walk through. Warshaw did not specify what "secret' the modern-day Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan will have to know to gain entree.

Warshaw and hotel manager Oliver Dudler appeared before the board to formally request a liquor license. In the likely event board has none to dole out, Warshaw will have to go on the open market to buy one due to the state-imposed limit on the number of liquor licenses in Boston. Currently, full liquor licenses are going for upwards of $400,000 just to purchase, before the city charges an annual fee, the amount of which varies on the number of seats.

The board votes tomorrow on whether to grant the license request.

The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay voted to not oppose the request.



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Can everyone please just stop?

It's just a bar.

Voting closed 55

...next door to the swanky new building. Looks like the club is getting a major renovation too.

Voting closed 7

I obviously confused them with whatever used to be there (some less-luxury-than-a-Raffles hotel?).

Voting closed 9

That's what was there before, and it was mostly a rather indistinct place, although it had a beautiful solarium on the third floor that was speakeasy like, in that it was a hidden gem that you had to just know about to even realize it was there.

Voting closed 12

That was such an odd place-- the lobby felt a bit like a well decorated bomb shelter, the rooms were out of a 1982 Ramada Inn-- but somehow, it became the go-to inexpensive hotel for my family over the years, when we couldn't scrounge up enough sofas & air beds amongst those of us who still live here. I remember the solarium-- I think you could look into the University Club from it.

Voting closed 6

...was there, with the entrance on Trinity Place. Was always amused by the their name -- more aspirational than geographical! And certainly less luxury than the Raffles, but then again, isn't everything? :-)

Voting closed 11

But I was once in a gay bar named "Raffles" and thought, "what a ridiculous f'ing name for any bar."

Even more so for a hotel....

Voting closed 12

Raffles is a Singapore-based luxury hotel chain, named after the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, which I imagine is super fancy-schmancy. It itself is named after Sir Thomas Raffles, who was the lieutenant-governor of colonial Singapore. I imagine there are a lot of things in Singapore named after him, but can't say I've been there.

Voting closed 13

..is where the Singapore Sling was invented

Voting closed 12

Yeah, the name 'raffles' for a gay bar sounds familiar. No idea what city tho.

Maybe some smaller city like Springfield or manchester or similar size.

Voting closed 10

I miss dive bars. Boston has done a great job of eliminating them.

Voting closed 33