When Jeff Bell and Nic Adler came up with their initial concept for a tropical speakeasy at Coachella, they knew it would be fun. They probably never expected it to become one of the most talked-about attractions at the festival for four years running.
Bell and Adler first combined superpowers at Panorama Festival in New York, where they’d created a speakeasy bar much like the East Village’s legendary hole-in-the-wall, PDT Tropicale, which Bell runs in New York City. As Goldenvoice’s director of food and beverage, Adler enhanced the experience by bringing in props, décor, and more visual elements. Most of all, he ensured the place would provide a reprieve from the famously intense Coachella sun. As word got out about the atmosphere and their signature chilled cocktails, the buzz surrounding the pop-up kept spreading.
“We didn’t want to make it exclusive, to where people could read about it but not be able to get in. We wanted it to be something where everybody could go,” Bell explains.
Yet the key to a true “speakeasy” and the oasis’ charm, according to Bell, was keeping it a secret. Or, at least, not advertising it. As a result, no information was published about it on the Coachella website, email newsletter, or in the guide. In other words, the only way to know about it was through word of mouth.
“What’ll happen every year of the festival is, the first Friday is kind of slow, which is fine for us,” Says Bell. “By day two, people start finding it. Then the Goldenvoice executives come by, and some of the super VIPs and artists they know find out about it so they’ll come by. Then those people tell people and those people tell people. By day three, it’s crazy. The second weekend is bonkers.”
Those who’ve found the tropical speakeasy in the past will be surprised to find it in a new location this year. It’s still hidden in plain sight, but this year it’ll be placed near the Palapa check-in, sandwiched between the Mojave and Gobi stages. Those who visit it early will beat the crowds that will inevitably form later in the weekend.
They’ll also be the first to try drinks like the Tropitonic, a daytime refresher with guava, tonic and citrus. For those who want to drink but not get drunk, Life’s a Garden is a swanky non-alcoholic drink akin to a gin and tonic. For an afternoon kick, there’s the Peptalk, which is like a savory Paloma but with red bell peppers. This year, Bell is also unveiling a drink called The Greenlight, packing Absolut Vodka, fresh pressed grapes, apple juice, and mint. And that’s just a few of the drinks on the menu.
“We make great drinks, but it’s the whole experience that puts the excitement on peoples faces when they walk in,” says Bell. “It’s just like PDT in New York: we want to be one of the things people talk about when they leave. If we can be something that people remember, like when people come to Coachella to see Billie Eilish, or some big mega star, we want them to be able to say the music was great and this food thing was great – oh yeah, and we found this secret bar!”