Fresno has a secret bar.
Yes, it’s a speakeasy, a throwback to the Prohibition era when illegal bars were hidden in cellars and back rooms.
Called The Library at Detention, the new bar has opened in the Tower District, upstairs from Detention Billiards, at 750 E. Olive Ave.
Obviously – since you’re reading this in The Bee – the secret is out, with the owner’s permission.
This was a personal mission on my part because I wanted a speakeasy.
Tim Ferrigan, The Library at Detention
But you can’t just head over there. Access to the tiny bar is by reservation only. You’ll need a password and you might have to ring a hidden doorbell that leads to a hidden door behind some lockers (the high school-themed pool hall is full of them, so we’re not giving much away).
Directions and a password are given when reservations are made on The Library’s website . Reservations are available in two-hour blocks starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Upstairs, you’ll find a dark bar done up in 1920s style. With wallpaper mimicking bookshelves, a comfy couch and a handful of bar stools, the room seats about 20. There are plans to soon expand capacity 35.
Bars with hidden entrances and cozy interiors are popping up in big cities like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The Library’s owner, Tim Ferrigan, was inspired in part by Bourbon & Branch, a speakeasy in San Francisco.
Before it was a pool hall or a Blockbuster, the Fresno building was a bank. Its offices are tucked away in a second story that’s barely visible from the pool tables.
Upstairs, it’s a different world.
“You’re coming in through a loud and raucous pool hall,” Ferrigan said. “I like the idea of it being quiet all the time.”
Dress is business casual here and if you want to dress up like it’s the 1920s, you won’t be out of place.
Behind the bar is barkeep (yes, that’s what he likes to be called) Matthew Lung and his menu is full of cocktails, wine, whiskey and scotch. The cocktails are the star of the show, with Lung making his own simple syrups for them. The drinks range from classics like an old fashioned to his popular creation, the Fresno Fizz, made with egg whites and gin.
One Matthew McConaughey-inspired drink made with local Corbin Cash whiskey is playfully dubbed “All Rye, All Rye, All Rye.”
Since it is called The Library, a literary theme runs throughout the bar, from a framed photo of author Charles Bukowski to a quote from Sylvia Plath about drinking on the menu.
Ferrigan will continue to run Detention downstairs. The speakeasy is a fun pet project.
“The bar downstairs makes very good money,” he says. “This was a personal mission on my part because I wanted a speakeasy.”