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Room XIII: The mysterious uptown ‘speakeasy’ you can rent for your next party

The invitation for the 30th birthday party said it would be at a “speakeasy” uptown. What “speakeasy?” I wondered. Is this some new bar?

Nope. I spent Saturday night partying at Room XIII, a “speakeasy”-style event space in uptown with poker tables, wet bar and a Prohibition-era vibe. And you can rent it out for your next party or poker night (and impress all your friends with how fancy you are).

Room XIII is part of Emerson Joseph, the men’s grooming lounge, and located below the Tryon Street storefront.

It opened in 2006 and was renovated in 2011. It’s been used for friendly poker games, bachelor parties, birthday parties, companies entertaining clients, cigar nights (yep, cigars are allowed) and more.

Emerson Joseph members and non-members alike can rent it, but it’s significantly cheaper if you are a member.

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Never heard of Room XIII? Neither had I. And that’s the idea. Owner Zach Edwards said Emerson Joseph purposefully doesn’t market the room much.

“It’s sort of like the room that doesn’t exist,” he said. “No cell reception. Just recently put WiFi in. That was intentional … so you kind of get to go off-grid and just hang out. …

“It’s supposed to be a little bit mysterious. I like that aspect of it.”

Getting into Room XIII feels like being a member of a secret club. I wandered down a back alley in uptown. Off to the side, I located a nondescript door where I had to punch in a passcode (it changes daily) then descend a dark staircase.

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The noise of the party echoed through a dark hallway, which led to a door with a steel grate and sliding door viewer.

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The room behind the door isn’t anything super fancy, but that’s kind of the idea. Edwards modeled it after a room in his fraternity at the University of Vermont called the Friday Afternoon Drinking Club.

Even after he spruced up the place — freshening the exposed brick walls, adding new floors, tacking a poster of a pin-up girl to the wall with the words “Want to Play?” — Edwards made sure to not make it too nice.

“I kept it being kind of a dirty hole in the wall because I want that feeling,” he said. “Just upped the ante a little bit.”

Comfy chairs fill in the room to create a small lounge area, and there’s a wet bar with two beer taps on the far other end of the room. Two poker tables sit in the middle and a bench runs along the back wall. Two large TVs hang in the corners.

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Members can rent the space for $130, non-members for $440, but Edwards said those rates will go up soon when the room gets a bit of an upgrade. Expect it to be more expensive on popular dates, like the Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve.

You can bring your own food and drinks or work with Emerson Joseph to get it catered. (Most people bring their own.) The only requirement is that the person who rents the room stays the entire time.

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Edwards claimed some of “Charlotte’s who’s who” frequent the place and smoke cigars — he wouldn’t drop any names, though. He also wouldn’t tell any stories about times when things got a little rowdy.

“There are times that I’ve gone down there that person’s gotten a pretty nasty phone call and a pretty hefty damage charge,” he said. “I modeled it after a fraternity room, so there’s an expected level of mayhem.”

Photos: Courtesy of Emerson Joseph; David Steele; Corey Inscoe

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