Another example of a secret tunnel beneath a San Francisco speakeasy is at the present site of a Bourbon and Branch saloon at 501 Jones St. near O’Farrell. Look for the Anti-Saloon League sign (upper photo). Between 1923-1935 the nondescript building housed the J.J. Russell Cigar Shop, but an aromatic havana was not their main product. One would knock on the main door and provide a password (today, you must make reservations via their website where you are given a password to be used just as in olden days). Once inside, if you requested a particular cigar, an employee would lead the way through a trap door to the basement where a bartender would serve the finest bootleg contraband shipped from Vancouver. There was a brass bell, which was connected to a lever behind the counter upstairs. If this sounded, a warning would be sent throughout the speakeasy. Patrons would scurry through various tunnels. The Ladies Exit, for example, granted safe passage to Leavenworth Street, a full block away.
Today the saloon capitalizes on its notorious reputation, making available the original five rooms used during Prohibition. Each has a secret entrance such as the Ipswitch Room in the basement where one gains access via a trap door (photo bottom right) or the Wilson & Wilson Room via a faux bookshelf (photo bottom left). The secret tunnels are marked where they once served a clandestine clientele, but due to insurance requirements they have since been barricaded. Have a stiff one in the same space where perhaps a distant relative once imbibed. Cheers!