Author Archives: Kevin Bracken


How to Throw a Party: Raw and DIY Venues

The reason most bars, nightclubs and banquet halls have the same basic features is a confluence of the law, tradition and expertise. This machinery is in place because it is necessary and proper. If your crowd demands something fresh and unique, or you are looking to create a one-of-a-kind experience for a client, you might decide to throw a party in a loft or other raw space. Events like these vary in level of difficulty, depending on how much the owner includes and how much you need to do yourself. 

This is a list of the basics you’ll need before you endeavor to hold an event in a non-bar, non-nightclub space.

The Space

Finding a great venue is part art, part science. Speakeasy is the easiest way to find and book venues online 😉 You can also check Craigslist or word of mouth. 

Sound and DJ Gear

It ain’t a party without music, and you may need to provide your own. If you don’t know somebody who will rent you their gear for a fee, rent it from a store. In Canada, you can’t beat Long and McQuade, and in the US, many Guitar Center locations will have rental sections (call first.) You will at least need: 1 subwoofer, 2 powered tops, 1-2 booth monitors, and 1 mixer on a table. You may also need CDJs, turntables, or a Serato control box. Find somebody who can hook these up. 

Cash Box

One of those things people never remember until the last minute is the cash box. You’ll actually want two of these: one for the bar and one for the door.

imageAurora Gallery in Astoria on Speakeasy

The Bar

If you have the fortune of being able to run your own bar, you’ll be faced with several problems: 

  • Cups: How big a cup should you use? There is considerable debate about whether 6oz cups or 9oz cups are superior – I say 7oz, the shorter the better. They only hold a little more, but look much bigger. 
  • Beer and liquor shopping: buy more than you need, and make sure you can return any extra. This is much better than running out. People expect less drink selection at a DIY venue, so stick to a few liquors that are popular (sorry, gin) if you can’t provide a full bar.
  • Mixers. See above: stick to a few kinds. Nobody wants diet tonic.  
  • Ice. Buy a lot, and have a way to keep it cool. 
  • Cash box. Don’t forget this.
  • Tip jar. If your bartenders are working for tips, this is important. 
  • Liquor license. Hang this in a very conspicuous place, and have multiple copies.   

Coat Check

If you’re doing an event in coat weather for more than 50 people, you should have a coat check. Coat racks can be rented or purchased for cheap, hangers are pretty cheap too, but the most uniquely specific item is coat check tags – you can find them at Party City. A nifty alternative is writing people’s coat number on their hand, and writing that number on a piece of duct tape on their coat hanger. 

Hand Stamps or Wrist Bands

Drawing an X on people’s hands is boring. Get decent stamps, and always stamp the inside of the wrist so the mark doesn’t wash off. Wrist bands are more expensive but make it easy to verify that people have paid/can access certain areas, and they can be branded. 

The Float

“The float” is an amount of money you put in the cash boxes to make it easier to break 20 dollar bills. The most common bill to run out of is 5s, so you should seed each of your cash boxes with about $200 in 5 dollar bills. Write this down so you can subtract it from your revenue at the end of the night. 

The Cash Drop

Every few hours, you should do a cash drop. This means briefly halting sales at the door or bar, taking the large bills from the cash box, counting them with the bartender or door person, and removing the money. Write down the amount of each drop, and keep it in a safe place (like a safe.) This is all in the name of closely controlling your money. 

Toilet Paper and Paper Towels

There is no such thing as too much toilet paper or paper towels. Having extra raises you to a new level of expertise.  

The End

I have a rule about not stopping the music and turning the lights on at the same time; that’s just rude. Choose one or the other, thank everybody on the microphone, and try to get some applause. All’s well that ends well – leave people with a great impression of the night – they’ll come back for more next time. 

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Speakeasy Presents at Vegas Jelly

Speakeasy @ Vegas Jelly November 1st 2012 from Get Speakeasy on Vimeo.

Last week we were honored to be invited to speak at Vegas Jelly, a weekly tech meetup in downtown Las Vegas about startups and entrepreneurship. The talks were quite varied and engaging, especially FandeavorBetaspring, Clickthrough TV and Ubiquita.

Instead of just pitching our product, I wanted to tell the story of how Newmindspace created a global event brand, how that spawned Speakeasy, and how fun helps build community. I didn’t get too deep into the citybuilding part this time, but perhaps I can deliver that to a less tech-oriented crowd at a later time – I hear the number of talks in downtown Vegas is about to increase dramatically.

Direct video link

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Behind the scenes of The Dusty Rabbit box truck speakeasy

Behind the Scenes of The Dusty Rabbit from Speakeasy

Last week, we decided to drive to Las Vegas to check out the tech scene,, the revitalization efforts of downtown Vegas spearheaded by Downtown Project, and the intriguing vision to remake a city in the middle of the desert. Since it is our habit to put on crazy events whenever we can, we decided it would be thematically appropriate to build a speakeasy in a box truck for First Friday.

We called Zappos CLT to get help finding a white box truck, covered the inside with red fabric, found a nice dark wood bar on Amazon, and our friend Andra from SUSHISAMBA strip to pour old fashioned cocktails with a modern flair. (You can find the recipes here!)

Our first stop was Speaker Series where Kacy Qua from X PRIZE was giving a talk. As the portable building emptied, our little speakeasy filled right up. We served about half the people we met last week – glad to be of service!

Later that night, after First Friday wound down, we decided to bring The Dusty Rabbit out again for round 2. We found a good spot on 6th St. between Fremont and Carson next to the soon-to-open Commonwealth to keep the drinks flowing. After a couple text blasts from the illustrious Krissee Danger, the patrons multiplied and the swing music was roaring.

What we found in Las Vegas was a super vibrant, amazing community of urbanists, developers, entrepreneurs, and people who are just passionate about living. It was a strange juxtaposition with the smoky casino floor at the El Cortez – truly a mix of old and new. We are pleased to say that we are coming back for Halloween to check out the Las Vegas Halloween Parade, a surprisingly recent addition to the Las Vegas cultural landscape. Not sure if The Dusty Rabbit will ride again, but we’ll be up to something 😉


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Advice to Canadian Entrepreneurs: Copy Bay Area Startups

by Kevin Bracken & Alex Gold 

Having lived in Toronto for many years, Canada is always top-of-mind for us. From a business perspective, Toronto is always looming in the distance as a huge market. It’s the fourth largest city in North America, is quite wealthy and diverse, and Canadians are some of the most wired people on the planet, so we’re willing to say it’s an even bigger city than Chicago in a way.

Despite the obviousness of Toronto being a massive market, it is sorely neglected when it comes to consumer startups trying to get traction. Most startups begin trying to get traction in the Bay Area, then expand to New York (or vice versa) and then a handful of top-tier American cities before they even think about Canada. (Or emigrate to Silicon Valley, like our friends at Couple.) As Alex says from time to time, “There have been numerous American startups that have entered the Canadian market to much success. Sometimes even greater than their homegrown counterparts.”

The fun fur market is underserved

This actually presents a Canadian entrepreneur with a unique opportunity: the ability to copy the business model of a popular SF startup that has no immediate plans to expand to Canada.

Lyft comes to mind as something that Toronto desperately needs, and a company that is going to expand into Toronto eventually, after they have tackled a bunch of second-tier American cities first. If a Toronto company can own the “unlicensed drivers with fun fur on the car grille” market, it is quite possible Lyft (or whoever wins the unlicensed driver space) will simply acquire the Toronto company to gain the traction they need. A good example of this is Airbnb’s acquisition spree following their Series D funding, including acquisition of London-based Crashpadder.

We would even go as far as saying there ought to be entire Canadian seed funds based around this concept: it’s good for Canada because Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver will get to play with new consumer tech earlier, and good for business, because it will present exit opportunities when these larger American startups raise massive later rounds or IPO.

If we were starting a new company in Toronto and weren’t sure exactly what problem we wanted to tackle, this is exactly what we would do.

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