Taking a step inside Telephone Pub is like entering a fantasy. You’re suddenly out of the bright lights of the Belmar shopping district and inside a small, dark room illuminated by a red phone booth topped by a hooting, head-spinning, animatronic owl. Walk through the phone booth’s almost-secret passageway and the room opens up into an expansive, 6,400-square-foot space.
It’s immediately obvious that this is no run-of-the-mill pub, and that’s just how owner Joshua Schmitz wants it.
“Obviously nobody just steps out of their house for a beer,” he says. “You can drink beer at your house, and we all got pretty used to that during COVID. So [we asked ourselves] what are we doing that’s experiential? What are we doing that makes people want to get up and spend their money versus sitting on the couch in the comfort of their home?”
The latest concept from Schmitz’s Handsome Boys Hospitality group, Telephone Pub is filled with winks toward a certain blockbuster franchise-that-must-not-be-named (because of copyright laws). Scattered throughout the typical English pub decor of crests, shields, and vintage Guinness ads are flying keys, floating candles, and wanted-wizard posters. There are books mounted to the walls and wrapped around pillars—look closely and you might even spot a green-and-silver or black-and-yellow flag or two.
While opening a new pub during a global pandemic—and just 25 days after signing a lease for the space—might be a daunting feat for some, Schmitz’s Handsome Boys takes it in stride. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve expanded from two concepts (now-closed bar/coffee shop Bellwether and online clothing company Ruckus Apparel) to nine, including horror-themed bar Slashers, Christmas pop-up bar Naughty List, and Hidden Gems Ice Cream.
“I think with all of our things, we’d like to become neighborhood staples where people can come, feel comfortable, and hang out with old friends or meet new ones,” Schmitz says. “Our goal is to be an absolute staple in the Belmar and downtown Lakewood community.”
Along with the immersive decor, a major part of the Telephone Pub experience is in the drinks. Along with 52 beers on tap, Schmitz has plans to incorporate cocktails that “borderline have magic in them,” like color-changing concoctions and glittering potions.
“There’s a lot of great cocktail programs in the state, but a lot of them are served by people in bow ties, and we’re definitely not that,” he says. “Whether you’re a fan of Harry Potter or you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings or whatever it is, a lot of those fancy cocktail places are really intimidating to go into. You don’t feel like you’re going to know anybody, or it’s not your people and stuff. So for us, to create a really warm and welcoming environment where you can have a great-priced cocktail that’s really well done is awesome.”
While the potions masters are still cooking up the menu, here are three can’t-miss cocktails in the current, abbreviated lineup that you can sip on today.
Riddle Me This
A drink as black as night (thanks to activated charcoal), this brew is straight out of a witch’s cauldron. The mezcal-based drink is infused with lime, orange, and agave with a splash of plum bitters. Price: $12.
Infused with sweet and earthy beets, this gin cocktail also has hints of lemon, apple, and carrot. It’s good enough to entice even You Know Who. Price: $12.
Whiskey, apple cider, and clove cinnamon demerara combine in this hot cocktail that will keep you warm even when Dementors are near. Price: $12.
Telephone Pub is open Monday–Friday, 4 p.m.–2 a.m., and Saturday–Sunday, 12 p.m.–2 a.m., at 7260 W. Alaska Drive, Lakewood