Before the 18th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States, other measures limited where alcohol could be consumed, including the Raines Law, which stipulated that boozing be confined to hotels. Nearly a century later, Raines Law Room, a prolific Chelsea speakeasy, took its name from that piece of history, paying homage to the connection between speakeasies and hotels. Come mid-October, the bar will play up that link more when a second Raines Law Room (24 East 39th Street) opens its doors in the William Hotel, a recently opened Midtown long-term stay boutique that also houses the Shakespeare Pub and the Peacock.
“We always thought that this concept — the speakeasy — and the atmosphere and the decor really was suitable in hotels,” says owner Alberto Benenati. “This concept was really meant to be in hotels. The Chelsea Inn is above Raines Law Room. And when we had this opportunity to take a space in the William Hotel on 39th and Madison, we thought that it was a perfect fit for us.”
The second location was years in the making; Benenati and his team looked at several spaces before this one came available. Raines Law Room will occupy a pair of rooms (one will be the library, the other the bar) on the hotel’s main level, both of which are high-ceilinged and wood-paneled. “We did the renovation,” says Benenati. “We took the same features as the original Raines Law Room — the same colors, the same bells to call for service.” And his team will also preserve the speakeasy vibe: in order to access the bar, you’ll have to go first to the Shakespeare Pub downstairs, where you’ll check in with a host who will lead you up a hidden staircase to your table.
As with the 17th Street outpost, Meaghan Dorman is presiding over the drinks list, and Benenati says the menu will be similar, though there’s a bit more of an old-fashioned focus here. Jason Hicks, the chef at the Shakespeare and the Peacock, will turn out a special menu of small plates for Raines; while the Shakespeare and the Peacock have British menus, the Raines list will be globally inspired. Benenati cites a tuna tartare and sandwiches, and says dishes will be priced between $8 and $12.
The owner believes this second outpost will serve as a destination for Raines regulars who trek from uptown or midtown to the original location, but it’s also, he hopes, the first of more Raines Law Rooms to come. “We’ve been offered a couple more opportunities with new hotels that are being built, but it has to be the right space, vibe, and decor,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense for us to go into a brand new glass building.” So it’s difficult to find a fit in New York. He’s looking elsewhere, though, including at projects on the west coast. “We would love to be known as hotel bar specialists — we think we can bring something to the table in terms of ambiance and quality,” he says.
The new Raines Law Room will tentatively soft open on October 12.