Lots of people worship a religion. Plenty more worship money. But while lots of banks and churches are turned into bars, you don’t see many bars turned into banks or churches. What does that tell you about our devotion to booze?
Deep thoughts aside, here are some really badass bars converted from buildings that used to serve purposes spiritual, financial, or otherwise.
TRINITY PLACE BAR & RESTAURANT
New York, NY
Just ease past the 35-ton vault door and grab a seat at this former bank’s 40-foot mahogany bar. In the heart of New York’s financial district, the food and spirits are fine, but the ambiance is what makes the place special.
The former Charles Street Jail became the Liberty Hotel in 2007 after $150-million in renovations. The new owners couldn’t resist giving their hotel’s bars and restaurants names like “Alibi” and “Clink”. But despite those twee touches, the Liberty is a damn cool place to grab a drink if you’re in Beantown. (Just don’t say “Beantown” around a Bostonian.)
This 200-year-old gothic gem has served as both a church and a bank. The name is taken from the original bank business, though the interior of the bar still features stained glass touches from its spiritual era.
CHURCH BREW WORKS
Award-winning craft brews are served in this beautiful, 100-year-old church. The bar is made from old pews, and the original Douglas fir wood floors are still in use. This bar may have the worst website in the country, but it’s a great place for a bite and a beer.
THE AIRPLANE RESTAURANT
Colorado Springs, CO
Housed in a “fully intact Boeing KC-97 tanker,” the restaurant’s name is unsmirkingly literal. This place is part-restaurant, part-aviation museum, and part lounge serving “jet fuels” cocktails like the “Canadian Bomber” and the “Arctic B-52.”
The owners call the bar in the basement of this restaurant the “Tough Luck Club.” That’s appropriate, because the building used to be a funeral home. The new proprietors kept the place’s old name, though the pizza and beer garden are (presumably) new additions.
Los Angeles, CA
Downtown LA’s first “first private power plant” is now one of the city’s most eccentric bars. Located in the basement of an historic building, the bar’s various rooms are a warm, decadent homage to early 20th century ostentation—like if Baz Luhrmann opened a bar.
GRAND TRUNK PUB
Originally opened as a jewelry store in the 1870s, the space was converted to a bar in 1935 as the city boomed and railway passengers were more interested in drinks than diamonds. It’s been serving unpretentious beer and cocktails ever since.
Another former power company holding, this building use to house the Northwestern Electric Company. Look up while you’re in the bar, and you can still see the old high-voltage rack attached to the ceiling.
WILLIMANTIC BREWING CO.
Formerly a post office, this once-abandoned granite-and-limestone brute now houses the Willimantic Brewing Company and its impressive 60-foot bar. If all post offices contained bars, “going postal” probably wouldn’t be thing.
Great Bars and Bartenders: The Del Monte, Los Angeles