Claremont Cocktail Club

By: Sid Robinson

The whole idea behind a speakeasy is that it’s at least somewhat of a secret. The 1920s and early 1930s speakeasy bars came about because of Prohibition, when the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol was illegal. Speakeasies provided a “hidden” bar where all comers could be entertained, mingle and drink alcohol illegally.

While most speakeasies disappeared after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, a number of bars started reviving the concept in recent years—mostly as a gimmick or to showcase finely crafted classic cocktails. There’s nothing illegal about today’s versions (that we know about), and the good ones carry mystique, making them well worth the visit. Many have hidden entrances through back rooms, fake walls, disguised hallways and even old phone booths. Some demand a password to get in.

 

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Now the Inland Empire has its own speakeasy of sorts. Enter the Claremont Cocktail Club. Established in October 2015, the CCC is only open one night a week in very small confines. Every Sunday, Uno Tre Otto restaurant becomes the Claremont Cocktail Club—a dark and intimate hangout with the look, music and feel of something out of the Prohibition era.

The club is the brainchild of mixologist Anthony Jackson and chef Dewayne Glass. Because of its limited operating hours and space, there is no full bar or dinner service. However, Jackson’s carefully crafted cocktails are spectacular and Glass’s appetizers are delightful. This is not a place to order a vodka-soda or any other generic cocktail.

 

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“Dewayne and I are family through our wives, who are cousins,” said Jackson, who has lived in the U.S. for seven years after moving here from England. “When my wife and I first moved to Southern California from Santa Cruz, we lived with Dewayne and his wife for a year. Working in the industry, Dewayne and I always talked about opening a place.

 “Fast-forward five years and I was getting ready to leave Union On Yale and Claremont and feeling pretty bummed about it,” he added. “I wanted to test the experience I had gained being the GM of Union and see if I could actually run my own place.”

About that time, Union on Yale owner John Solana and executive chef Brad Owens purchased La Piccoletta and changed the name to Uno Tre Otto.


“It's easily one of the most unique buildings in Claremont with a history to match,” said Jackson. “I knew John and Brad had no immediate plans to open Uno Tre Otto on Sundays, so I pitched them the idea of letting me use the space for a cocktail lounge. That's when Dewayne and I came up with CCC. John and Brad loved the idea.”

Jackson and Glass welcome the opportunity to experiment with cocktails, food and different themes. Both have “day jobs,” but they are dedicated to creating a relaxed vibe with a casual atmosphere in Claremont with excellent food, drinks and service. They take an unassuming approach with food, creating a fun, imaginative menu of simple appetizers to accompany the classic beverages.

“We both agreed to make it feel more like a bar/lounge than a restaurant, and to take a minimalist approach, because the building was already dark and mysterious,” said Jackson, who has been tending bar since he was 16.  He was general manager at Claremont’s Union on Yale before moving to Long Beach when his wife took a job as a doctor at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. He is currently the lead bartender at the James Republic restaurant at the Courtyard Marriott in Long Beach.

 

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Glass is a native Southern Californian with 17 years of experience in the restaurant industry, with positions as culinary professional at Red Lobster and lead server at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. Says Jackson, “Dewayne demonstrates a passion for creating innovative food concepts that pair well with cocktails and a healthy obsession for craft beer, fine wine and spirits.”Jackson is quick to note that even though it’s called a club, everyone is welcome and membership is not required.

“Ultimately, CCC is more of a hang-out spot than a party bar,” he said. “We like to have fun with the concept and so at some point in the summer we hope to host a Tiki night with a roasted pig and plenty of cocktails with tiny umbrellas in them.”

Finding the place is part of the challenge. Uno Tre Otto, which is open Tuesdays through Saturdays at 5 p.m., is hard enough to find as it is, nestled in the Claremont Village alleyway between Indian Hill Boulevard and Yale Avenue, just north of First Street. There are no signs. The normal restaurant entrance is in a breezeway, but the backdoor entrance is required to get into the Claremont Cocktail Club. Look for the C C C on the large wooden doors.

If that doesn’t help, then look for 114 North Indian Hill Boulevard, Suite P in Claremont, California.