Special Report: Exploring Petoskey's Underworld - Northern Michigan's News Leader

Special Report: Exploring Petoskey's Underworld

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It's well known rumor in Petoskey around for decades; people talk of a labyrinth of tunnels beneath the city.

It all dates back to prohibition, when Emmet county became a central hub for speakeasies, and illegal gambling for socialites.

Vacationers would visit from downstate and illegally sip top shelf liquor, and gamble illegally. One place they'd do it; the basement of what is now City Park Grill.

"So 1909 prohibition rolls around in Petoskey , about 10 years before the rest of the nation. So we become a high class soft beverage industry.... speakeasy. And all that happened in the basement. They built tunnels to run booze throughout the town. They have since been closed off but you can see the tunnels. A lot of people believe they ran down to the Perry hotel. You can still see inside, it's just a dusty old closet now," said Assistant Manager Jake Schneider.

City Park was once nestled between the Kushman Hotel, and The Palm Garden. Historians believe the tunnels in the basement could have been used at a network to transport the booze.

Historian Christopher Struble is a board member of The Hemingway Society. He says aside from City Park, Emmet county has other spots that could be speakeasies too.

"We have all these different levels of speakeasies in the area, extremely ornate and luxury to the working mans bar and everything in between. There are a few of these that are absolutely prohibition tunnels...the ones in the City Park, between the Kushman."

Rick Wiles, a local historian, has focused on one specific establishment and is our expert. Just down the road in Harbor Springs is a once speakeasy called the Club Manitou.

He says it was owned by a man named Al Gearhart, known as "Slim." He operated the establishment as a restaurant with an elaborate basement where the upper echelon would drink and gamble. It is believed that he had ties to the Purple Gang, which could be why the club operated without revolt until '34.

"It was secret to most locals. Most locals didn't know it what was going on. They heard rumors, but they didn't get to go unless they worked there," said Wiles.

The once hopping juice joint, is now the basement of a home. But the history is still rich as ever.

We got an exclusive look.

9 and 10's Alyssa Gambla and photojournalist Erin Malone dug into the history and take you underground.. And back in time to see if the hearsay is on the "up and up."