Carrie Rengers

Wichita’s Ambassador Hotel working on basement speakeasy

The Ambassador Hotel soon will be home to a speakeasy.
The Ambassador Hotel soon will be home to a speakeasy. The Wichita Eagle

The speakeasies of old were designed around two things: liquor and secrecy.

With the resurgence of speakeasies nationally in recent years, liquor has remained a constant, but the secrecy is tougher.

There are building permits and liquor licenses to get.

So, not to ruin anyone’s fun, but the Ambassador Hotel Wichita, Autograph Collection is working on a speakeasy for its basement.

“We’re looking to bring something here that’s very fun and unique and that is on point with what is happening with every other major city,” says general manager Tad Stricker.

He says he’s trying to capture the mystique of a speakeasy.

“It was always something that was always kind of secretive by nature,” Stricker says. “You had to know somebody to get in. You didn’t know where the entrance was necessarily.”

He won’t say what the barriers to entry – if any – will be for the Ambassador’s speakeasy.

“I can’t tell you all the secrets to print in the newspaper.”

Stricker does say the business will be unlike any in Wichita.

“It’s going to be something that the doctor ordered for Wichita,” he says with a nod toward the building’s past. “This building has a very interesting past here.”

When the 14-story building at Douglas and Broadway was built in 1926, it was the tallest one in downtown Wichita.

As home to Union National Bank, the building was a banking destination for decades but also became famous for the Dockum Drug Store on the first floor, which was the site of a civil rights sit-in in 1958.

“We definitely wanted to honor the past of this building yet take it forward as well,” Stricker says.

The speakeasy will be coming this summer. Stricker says he’ll share some hints about it as it progresses.

“It’s going to be fantastic. You’re going to love it.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers