The Age of Wonderful Nonsense Recreated
The Story of the Steam & Whistles lounge and The Code –the Speakeasy underground pub at Grand By GRT Hotels
December 2nd changed a lot of perspective in Chennai. Lot of people’s lives changed overnight when they lost everything in the Chennai Floods disaster.
Grand By GRT Hotels was GRT Grand on 1st December before it was forced to close the doors when the hotel was marooned in swirling waters of the now in-famous Chennai floods.
It was an opportunity to re-discover /re-invent and re-launch the 18yrs old hotel in a new-age avatar. The Hotel was rebranded and launched on April 14th , 2016 with pomp and splendor kicking heels like a young , brash and quirky styled new age dude.
It was reborn as Grand by GRT Hotels.
With this re-birth, the restaurants and the bars of the hotel were also conceptualized to bring in the new quirk and bohemian to the attitude of the boutique hotel.
The High Time was the bar in GRT Grand for 18 years and had a loyal clientele for many long years.
A crack team sat together to put together a ‘first time’ concept for the Chennai yuppies on December 15th . This team included the GRT Hotels ideation team, Interior design consultant, Krithika Subramanium,and Debanjana and Chesly from JWT ( our Advertising agency) .
The ideation took us many levels of brain storming and finally an image was conjured of the Roaring Twenties Speakeasy Bars.
The Roaring Twenties or the Golden Twenties era went by such names as the Jazz Age, the Age of Intolerance, and the Age of Wonderful Nonsense. It was a decade of prosperity and dissipation, and of jazz bands, bootleggers, raccoon coats, bathtub gin, flappers, flagpole sitters, bootleggers, and marathon dancers.
The Ideas which Inspired Steam and Whistles and Code
- The decor of Steam and Whistles was inspired by the Speakeasy bars of the 1920 era. A speakeasy, also called a blind pig or blind tiger, is an illicit establishment that sold alcoholic beverages during the Prohibition of the 1920’s. It was dark paneled and cozy. This was recreated in Steam and Whistles in Grand by GRT Hotels.
- Automobile and Locomotives skyrocketed in 1920’s. Ford sold 15 million units of the Ford Model T. The name of Steam & Whistles was inspired by the Steam Locomotives ( a junk art of wheels & gears are the backdrop of the bar ) and the horns those days sounded like whistles.
- Art Deco was the style of design and architecture that marked the era and so the general décor of the lounge and pub followed the Art Deco style
- Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby in 1925 which told the story of the fictional character Jay Gatsby and exposed the excesses of consumerism during the 1920s. The entire lit art panel on the roof of the bar is a recreation of the Great Gatsby
- The Prohibition Gangsters were violent mobsters who extended their illegal activities in the 1920’s through the sale of intoxicating liquor which led to the rise of organized crime. The names of the most famous gangsters in the Roaring Twenties were Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Bugs” Moran, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Jack “Legs” Diamond. One can see the bar staff and the bar man dressed like the prohibition gangsters in the Steam and Whistles
- Speakeasies were saloons or nightclubs that sold alcoholic beverages illegally during the period of Roaring Twenties Prohibition. Speakeasies (speak-easies) were so named because patrons had to whisper code words to enter the illegal drinking clubs. CODE pub was inspired by the Speakeasy and is in the basement tightly tucked away behind a vault door and open only to Code words!!
- The Jazz Age, another name used for the Roaring Twenties, became associated with modernism, sophistication and decadence. There are several jazz bands which in Steam and Whistles and jazz music the house music.
- Terms and Phrases that emerged during the era were flappers, hooch, big cheese, jazzbos, bootlegger, Reds, cat’s whiskers, the bee’s knees, gatecrasher, crush, scram, lounge lizards, stool pigeons, Tommy guns and Dirty rats. These are cocktails and mocktail names in the steam & Whistles menu
Interesting Fact: In the 1920’s era , Flappers were light-hearted, female nonconformists who were eager to try new styles of dress and challenged the traditional ideas of behavior by wearing make-up, drinking and smoking in public and acting in an unladylike fashion. Flappers wore short bobbed hair, make-up such as lipstick and rouge, short fringed skirts, bright-colored sweaters and scarves illustrated in the picture of Clara Bow – The “It Girl”.
In my next blog I will tell you the story of J HIND , the progressive Indian restaurant in Grand by GRT Hotels.