Sometimes the best way to teach people about the past is to make sure they repeat it.
That’s the thinking behind the newest exhibit in downtown Las Vegas at The Mob Museum, The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. The exhibit, which opened last week, spotlights Prohibition and revolves around a working distillery and an authentic speakeasy.
Fittingly, “The Underground at the Mob Museum” is located in the museum’s basement—likely where a speakeasy would have been. The exhibit is sponsored by shoe e-tailer Zappos.com.
The history lesson is straightforward. Signage on the walls and cement pillars tells the story of Prohibition in the United States; the nationwide ban on alcohol kicked off with the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919 and continued through December of 1933, with the ratification of the 21st Amendment. The exhibition’s collection of artifacts includes period parlor games and other Prohibition-era goodies, and large cases display flapper dresses, men’s top hats, and other popular attire of the 1920s.
The Underground’s watering hole puts its own spin on cocktails. Bartenders serve some drinks (such as the house version of an Old Fashioned) in tiny flasks that arrive capped and hidden in hollowed-out book covers. In a separate room near the bar, visitors can ogle at the 60-gallon copper-pot still, and on-site distillers and brewmasters make the museum’s own corn-mash moonshine, vodka, and beer (all of which are available for purchase).
There’s even a cozy secret meeting space called The Fitting Room, the door to which is concealed behind a door-sized framed portrait of notorious speakeasy owner Mary Louise Cecilia “Texas” Guinan.
Near the entrance, an aquarium exhibit produced in conjunction with the Animal Planet series Tanked (which is filmed in Vegas) tells the story of the the Lizzie D, an 88-foot-long tugboat believed to have moonlighted as a rumrunner, which sank mysteriously in the waters off New Jersey in 1922.
When the museum is open, The Underground is more exhibit than bar, but after hours, thirsty customers can head down an external sideway on the east side of the building, knock on the door, and get in for free. The speakeasy also publishes passwords on its Instagram account for visitors to use at the side door and get in during the day without paying museum admission.
The Underground is open Sunday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday until midnight. Admission to the Mob Museum: $26.95 for adults; $20.95 for teachers, seniors, and members of law enforcement and the military; and $16.95 for students.