TWIN FALLS — Tim Stastny was working on his patio one day when an older gentleman struck up a conversation.
It was then that Stastny got a history lesson about the building that’s home to his pizza restaurant, Slice. During Prohibition, the man said, the basement had been used to store alcohol. Some of that booze was then smuggled through an underground tunnel to a gambling operation down the street.
This solved a mystery Stastny had previously discovered in his basement: A list of beverages chalked onto a streak of black along one white wall. These markings are remnants of that era.
Later this month, the restaurateur will come before the city’s Planning and Zoning Department to request a special use permit. If approved, Stastny will be able to open a private room and bar, with extended hours, below the restaurant.
“It will be a speakeasy-style bar,” he said. “That’s kind of what we always wanted to do.”
Unlike the restaurant, this room won’t have food service, except for private parties. The rest of the time, it’ll be solely for drinks and socialization. Stastny thinks the room could comfortably accommodate 60 to 80 people.
The not-so-secret entrance will be at the foot of a stairwell in front of the business. Stastny imagines that like similar establishments, there could be a slot that slides open in the door, and customers would present a passcode and a receipt from a local business to get in.
“My idea is just to get people to support local businesses,” he said.
Customers will have to follow a dress code to get in. The bar itself will be somewhat hidden inside the room, and will serve only Prohibition-era types of drinks.
“You won’t go in there and be able to get a Coors Light,” Stastny said. “It’ll be old-fashioned.”
He plans to keep much of the basement just as it is, with exposed concrete walls and floors. In accordance with fire code, the room will have a sprinkler system and an emergency exit opening to the alley.
The historic chalk markings, he said, will be carefully cleaned and preserved.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will consider Stastny’s special use permit at a public hearing Feb. 13. The permit is required in order for the basement bar to stay open until midnight.
Renee Carraway-Johnson, zoning and development manager, said the city would like to see more downtown businesses staying open at night.
“I think it would help generate activity downtown in all aspects,” she said.
The public hearing begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 13 in the City Council Chambers at 203 Main Ave. E. If the Planning and Zoning Commission approves Stastny’s request, he will move ahead with construction. Any decision by the commission could be appealed to the City Council.
Stastny feels confident he’ll be able to finish construction and open the bar by this fall, if not earlier.