A new speakeasy is opening in downtown Raleigh, but you'll need a key to get in

This is how you order hot dogs at The Cardinal, a private club with a low-key hot dog menu.
This is how you order hot dogs at The Cardinal, a private club with a low-key hot dog menu. Andrea Weigl

There are neighborhood bars, and then there's the Atlantic Lounge, opening this summer below Crawford and Son restaurant on North Person Street.

This subterranean modern speakeasy will be accessible only to key-carrying members, with first dibs going to residents of the surrounding Oakwood neighborhood in Raleigh.

The Atlantic Lounge comes from owners Jason Howard and Dan Murphy, who also own the Cardinal, a dive bar with a hot dog program, and the just announced Rainbow Luncheonette, a diner opening next spring on West Street.

"I call it a speakeasy, but it's just a bar," Howard said. "It's a place for the neighborhood to really take ownership of."

Patrons can get to the Atlantic Lounge via a doorway on Pace Street that will lead downstairs to a barroom big enough for a few dozen drinkers. The door always will be locked, opened only by the keys given to members, and locking behind them once they're inside.

Howard called the Atlantic Lounge a social experiment. After years of opening bars and hearing the early excitement from neighbors turn to lamentations of it being taken over by outsiders a few months later, he said he wanted to build a bar for the neighborhood.

"Locals will say they enjoy it for six months, then once word gets around, they'll say it's too crowded with people from outside the neighborhood," Howard said. "I thought this was the perfect opportunity to say if you want your own space, come and support it. They'll have the key. They can come in; it's their bar."

Initially there will be around 500 keys distributed for members, which Howard said he'll begin recruiting in the next couple of weeks. Howard said they've been working on the concept for about two and a half years and expect to open in roughly a month.

The bar will be at 620 N. Person St.

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