Speakeasy Reclaims Its Secret Space in Carlsbad

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For more than a dozen years in the 1920s and ’30s, Carlsbad’s most famous building had a secret

Cory Volkening, bar manager at the new Charles Kenneth speakeasy in Carlsbad, prepares a glass of absinthe. To sweeten the liquor's bitter anise flavor, he caramelizes a sugar cube with a torch, then dissolves the sugar in the drink with dripping ice water from the custom-made "absinthe fountain."

In the concrete-walled cellar of the ornate Twin Inns hotel and restaurant, proprietor Eddie Kentner ran a hidden speakeasy for thirsty guests during the Prohibition era. Now, nearly 100 years later, another speakeasy has opened in the same spot.

The Charles Kenneth, a 44-seat cocktail club accessible only via password, opens Friday night, July 7. The underground bar is named for Charles Kenneth Ruiz, the late grandfather of speakeasy proprietor Rob Ruiz.

The 39-year-old Carlsbad chef holds a 20-year lease on the historic building, which has been home to his all-organic, sustainably sourced restaurant, The Land & Water Company, since 2014.

Ruiz discovered the vacant space four years ago while remodeling the interior of the 130-year-old building. As a boy growing up in Oceanside, he’d heard tall tales about the speakeasy but his doubts were put to rest when he found old liquor bottles, coins, mason jars and other items during the cleanup.

A rustic version of the Charles Kenneth opened in November 2015, but closed just two months later because of paperwork related to its liquor license. Now, a new and much-improved Charles Kenneth is back to stay.

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Find out more about the return of this 100-year-old bar.