Mar 242011
Authors: Chadwick Bowman

If you didn’t know what you were looking for you wouldn’t find it.

The lesser-known basement bar, Ace Gillette’s is a hot-spot for jazz seeking, wine and cocktail enthusiasts.

One year ago this week the lounge formed a partnership with the Armstrong Hotel and moved into their current spot downtown on the main College Avenue strip, underneath the historic landmark.

Before moving in, the space was just a dirt floor with no interior walls. It was conceived and developed to look exactly the way it does now, like an after-hours hideaway.

The Armstrong Hotel opened in 1923, and Ace Gillette’s ambience is based on a 1920s feel. The Hotel is a fixture in Old Town and in the 1970s, the building –– along much of Old Town –– fell into decline due to southern business expansion. The building was sold in 2002, renovated, and re-opened in 2004.

You “come in as you are” to enjoy a speakeasy style barroom that according to front-of-the-house manager Ray Harvey, is deliberately under-the-radar. It is rarely advertised.

To access the lounge, you sink down a long, outdoor stairway along the north side of the hotel. At the top of the stairwell, the entryway begins with a narrow corridor –– easy to miss.

Inside, the lighting is low and the patrons talk softly. Wednesday through Saturday, the lounge is bustling with jazz music provided by a variety of artists. Harvey says the jazz is a big draw.

The bar has no TVs and soft house music when the band is in intermission. The tapping of glassware and rumblings of conversation is what you hear instead of the Rihanna-blasting and drunken shouting — common with other bars.

You can sit at Ace Gillette’s and talk.

Most students I’ve talked to have never heard of the lounge. Ace Gillette’s can be intimidating at first with its immediately noticeable formal decor.

Once students go however, they are drawn back.

Students I talked to who do visit say they either start off the night there or make an event off it. They get dressed up and go with a group to experience a new culture. The large booths and service allows you enjoy the ambience.

Harvey says the bar enjoys a diverse demographic –– not exclusive to anyone, especially college students.

“We have a very eclectic clientele.”

He said the patrons enjoy its distinguishable characteristics –– casual to up-scale dress and candle-light tables and a bright, full bar.

I spent an evening in an Ace Gillette’s booth. I put on a tie, combed over my hair to look somewhat respectable and enjoyed drinks with the prettiest girl I could get to go with me.

It was difficult for me to get too far out of my comfort zone. I didn’t order wine or a martini because Ace Gillette’s does have good beer on tap as well. I ordered an Odells.

The lady I was with was impressed with the venue, and wanted me to take her again. I’ll go back soon because sometimes I just have to take off the hoodie and beanie, put on a collared shirt, comb my hair and invite a respectable woman. Sometimes it’s good for me to extract myself from the beaten path of routine bars. It allows me the rare opportunity to act more refined.

Editorial Editor Chadwick Bowman is a senior journalism and sociology major. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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