Orlando bar, The Treehouse, cashes in on speakeasy trend
If you walk too fast you might miss it — but that's part of the fun.
A green door with a T-shaped handle near Pine Street and Magnolia Avenue in Downtown Orlando serves as a clue for guests looking for The Treehouse, Orlando's newest speakeasy cocktail bar.
"We think that a lot of people enjoy the mystery behind finding the green door," co-manager Jake Whitacre said. "We're trying to play up kind of the whole mysterious aspect of the bar."
Once bargoers find the entrance, there is no password needed. Guests 21 and older may ascend grass-turf stairs leading to a 40-person capacity hideaway.
"When you walk up the staircase into the bar, we've got these trees that kind of surround the entire stairwell, as well as a bunch of foliage, so it almost feels when you walk in like you're walking up into the trees," Whitacre said.
The Treehouse opened Dec. 4 to a crowd of about 150 to 175 people, according to both Whitacre and co-manager Brandon Geers, who are UCF alumni.
The woodsy decor and intimate size offer a different atmosphere than sister bars The Attic and The Basement. The others attract a college crowd, while The Treehouse is geared toward 25- to 45-year-olds and enforces a loose dress code.
"We highly encourage guys to wear pants and closed-toed shoes," Whitacre said. "No riffraff."
UCF students on a budget should note that an upscale atmosphere comes with upscale prices.
"When you come here, you're only going to get Belvedere vodka and Tanqueray's your gin, so we're going to be able to charge a dollar or two more than you'd normally [pay], but you're going to get the best quality product," Geers said.
The bar offers a craft cocktail menu with five drinks, each $11. These selections will rotate monthly.
Sarah Eller, a UCF alumna, works as a bartender, mixing the signature drinks.
"Everything is prepared and created right there, so it takes a little longer to get the drinks, but it's worth the wait," Eller said. "[For Smoked Apple Cinnamon] we light a plank of wood on fire [and] put the cup over it, so it actually gets the smoky flavor."
Though The Treehouse offers a twist on the speakeasy concept, other downtown bars provide more authenticity.
Senior psychology major Jessica Scott went to Hanson's Shoe Repair and enjoyed a more traditional speakeasy.
"Even the bartenders were dressed in early 1900s attire," Scott said. "It was really simple. It had a lot of character to it."
While Hanson's Shoe Repair and others stick to the Prohibition era, The Treehouse includes modern comforts. Televisions, folk music and bartenders wearing flannel mirror the woodsy interior.
"One thing we've noticed about the couple speakeasy bars that have popped up downtown recently [is that] they're not approachable," Geers said. "We're a very approachable, welcoming vibe."
To appeal to bargoers, the managers plan to host weekly events geared to play up their intimate space.
One plan is to play concert DVDs on the bar's televisions so guests can watch, as well as listen, to artists such as Mumford and Sons, Billy Joel and John Mayer.
"On the two TVs, we'll have the actual concert playing and have the music going through the bar, turn the lights down low a little bit, make a show out of it," Whitacre said.
To maintain its mystery, the bar minimizes advertising to social media and one other factor.
"Word of mouth is everything," Whitacre said.
The Treehouse hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday: 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Nicole Bleier is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.