Nestled in the corner of the Brick and Mortar real estate office entrance and hidden behind an elusive file cabinet lies one of the newest bars in Amherst, Massachusetts: The Archives. If you weren’t tipped off beforehand as to where this new gem was, you’d probably never find it. It’s a speakeasy with one way in and one specific handle that opens the “door.”
Entering feels like being transported back to prohibition through the red upholstery fabric draped chairs and Hereke rugs, with nostalgic lo-fi beats and wall-to-wall bricks and stone making up the one-room establishment plus a small bar taking up about half of the space. Seating is sparse, a decent range, but don’t expect a wild party and a huge guest list.
But the limited space truly adds to the simplicity of the bar. What the bar lacks in space it makes up for in decor and tiny details. Inspired by science and Japanese culture, every wall is pinned with a unique scientific poster. From the standard periodic table to a diagram of different kinds of beetles and mushrooms, manager Robert says that is one of his favorite parts of working at the Archives, “I love finding little hidden gems and antiques to add to the vibe…it’s nice to walk into a space that feels curated, not cheesy.”
The menu, composed of a double-sided pamphlet, features a unique range of cocktails, snacks, beer, sparkling water, whiskey, and scotch, with prices typically ranging from $15 to $30. With “cheeky [drink] names and fresh seasonality,” like Orchard Blossom, Sidecar, and Sinaloa Sling, the Archives hopes to “add a different kind of vibe to Amherst,” says Robert. Especially with the speakeasy aspect, it’s “not [just another] college bar, [it’s] a different kind of bar in town…it changes the overall expectations for the guests.”
All of the glassware is significantly smaller than usual since most of the bar is inspired by the owner’s affinity for Japanese culture and cocktails. One downside of the bar? The extremely dim lighting throughout and the need to shine a flashlight to see the menu and pick drinks.
Robert stated that it’s “nice to come in and be a part of [a] vision; seeing that vision, understanding the ownership, and taking it to the next level,” is a really rewarding aspect of his job.
There had been some hearsay throughout the town of the bar not being welcoming to college students, but as Robert stated, “We want both residents and college students…it’s a great spot for a pregame to The Spoke or Monkey Bar,” or a 5 o’clock drink with neighbors.
Overall, it is a great addition to the town’s nightlife scene. A simple room with a retro, enchanted, almost “witchy” vibe. We’re “hoping it will appeal to everyone…the locals and the college students [wanting] to try something new,” says Robert.