GTPulse: Dial M For Murder at 123 Speakeasy

The first theatrical performance I ever had a lead role in was Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, And Then There Were None. The play was memorable for me because I could feel the audience’s anticipation. The play was about 10 strangers being invited to an island by a mysterious man. When they all arrive to the island they begin to die one by one and they fearfully scramble to figure out who the fox in the henhouse is. I had been in plays before but something about the intrigue and unpredictability of who would die next really kept the audience energized. Murder mysteries are fun in any form, and I was absolutely delighted to be able to be apart of a murder mystery once again by going to 123 Speakeasy.

123 Speakeasy is one of those places people have been telling me to go to since I moved here. The glamorous, prohibition-era inspired bar in downtown Traverse City is entering its third year. What looks like a tea shop storefront is actually a cleverly concealed bar that is revealed behind a bookcase to patrons only after they give the doorman a password. A new password is selected everyday.

“The password is always something different or something we can customize for guests,” Co-owner Christine Keefe said. 

Upon reciting the correct password, guests are let into a sensually low lit bar. The bar has velvet loveseats and chaises arranged around coffee tables, and two other conversation rooms off of the main room. Dimly aglow chandeliers and old fashioneds served in crystal cocktail glasses make the bar feel like a place to loosen up, relax, tell secrets and solve a murder mystery.

This past Monday was 123 Speakeasy’s second murder mystery party, with their first party being a year ago, and the choice to continue on with them was inevitable after the success of the first party. Not only is 123 Speakeasy going to continue with the annual fall murder mystery party, Christine is writing another murder mystery that will be available to guests in March.

“If you’ve already done this one you can come back and do a different one.”

The drinks and food are all named after Traverse City prohibition history which inspired the murder mystery Christine is currently writing. The characters will be based on Traverse City historical figures.

The October murder mystery is a traditional 1920s and 30s style party. I went to observe the party and Christine asked if I’d be interested in participating, to which I enthusiastically agreed. A lot of the party guests were coworkers, friends or couples attending together. The women were dressed in fabulously feathered and sequined flapper gowns and the men were in pinstripe suits and fedoras. Characters are assigned to each guest and to solve the mystery guests have to chat with each other and give clues based on character cards they’re given. A room of strangers having to talk with each other in character is fun, and if you’re not someone who thinks so… there’s drinks to mitigate that.

The murder mystery parties have small plates all over the coffee tables as well as cocktails and appetizers being served by strolling servers. The drinks and food are always changing and Christine is a forager and regularly incorporates her fresh findings into recipes to serve.

“We use a lot of foraged ingredients because I’m actually a biologist by trade. So, we have foraged autumn berry thumbprint cookies tonight. I made the jam with the autumn berries, and the chef made the cookie.”

Guests enjoyed the cookies, the food, the drinks and the fun. At the beginning of the evening guests stuck to familiar faces but as the evening went on and the mystery ensued, more people were engaging in conversation with people they had just met. Granted, the nature of the party requires guests to talk to strangers, but I saw pockets of conversation that were filled with genuine laughter and non-murder talk. Who knew that murder mysteries were the real key to throwing a good party?

If you’re interested in attending a murder mystery at 123 Speakeasy, keep your eyes open for the next event upcoming in March. As for those who come to 123 Speakeasy looking for an innocent cup of tea?

“They can get some, we do hot cocoa and stuff in the winter too!”


Categories: GTPulse