On a crossroads in downtown Opelika, there is a small wooden alleyway that leads to the side door of Sneak & Dawdle, the only speakeasy in town.
“This is the entrance we use; the customers enter from the front,” said Matthew Casey, a bartender at the establishment.
The inside was dimly lit and had dark furniture. The two main bartenders who were in the establishment, Casey and Casper Obrzut, both came to Auburn to attend school for an engineering degree, but ended up dropping out of school.
“I stopped going to class, started working in a couple of different restaurants, then have been working for Matt and Jana, the owners, for four and a half years.”
Obrzut had a similar story.
“I ended up working for Matt and Jana when I was like 18 or 19 all the way to when I was about 21, then I got offered another position because I became interested in bartending,” he said.
Sneak & Dawdle officially opened its doors on Dec. 31, 2018. It was a project that the owners, Matthew and Jana Poirier, had been passionate about for a while. The couple already owned The Hound and The Depot, but desired a quieter, more laid back bar type of scene, Casey said.
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“Typically they are like a bar hidden inside another establishment,” he said. “We’re not quite that, but it’s more hidden, and we don’t really advertise on social media, stuff like that. You just kind of have to look for it or know someone who knows where it is.”
In order to find the exact location of the establishment, customers may have to walk around the block a few times before finding the front door, which is large, wooden and features the symbol of Sneak & Dawdle.
There were several reasons that the owners chose to have the black bear represent their establishment, Obrzut said.
“The state animal of Alabama is a black bear because Alabama has a lot of swamp areas, and wherever there are swamps there are black bears,” Obrzut said. “A lot of people don’t know that because bears sneak and kind of dawdle, they stay hidden. That’s where it came from.”
Sneak & Dawdle is usually quieter than the bars of downtown Auburn and usually attracts an older crowd, Casey said.
“We’re definitely more of a late-night place,” Casey said. “We do have a few people like, say, Friday night, a few people came in for pre-dinner cocktails before they went to Cafe 132 or Ma Fia’s. We’ll usually have a little bit of a lull while everyone is at dinner, and then about 8:30 we’ll start getting busy from there until about 12:30-1:00.”
The inspiration for the look of the speakeasy came from a Netflix show set in Great Britain. The owners took features from a bar on the set and used specific aspects when designing Sneak & Dawdle, Casey said.
“They took some inspiration from a show on Netflix about British gangsters,” he said. “They have this bar in there that is similar to what we have here; we call it snug, which they did also. It’s a little private room with a private window for the bartender.”
For the bartenders, the most rewarding aspect about being a part of this establishment has been the people they have met, Obrzut said.
“That is a really rewarding feeling,” Obrzut said. “That’s what kind of gets me to come back and keep bartending and keep making people happy. Ultimately that makes me happy– that and creating the stuff and learning about all the liquors.”
Casey also said that he appreciated the freedom he and Obrzut had when bartending.
“We have a lot of creative freedom here,” Casey said. “It’s a very small operation, and we’re the only full-time employees. It’s a small group, pretty tight-knit, and we just kind of help each other out.”
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