Couple to open '40s-themed speakeasy in historic building

Jessica (left) and Nancy Hughes are opening the River Rose Lounge, a 1940s-theme speakeasy cocktail lounge, in the century-old B. Weille & Son Department Store building, 409 Broadway, this August.

ELLEN O'NAN | The Sun

A speakeasy is normally something of a secret, a whisper passed between people in the know, but the owners of the River Rose Lounge, a 1940s-themed speakeasy and cocktail bar, are hoping their business won't be hush-hush for too long.

Setting up shop in the century-old B. Weille & Son Department Store building at 409 Broadway St. -- the same building that would later house Bright's Clothing Store and the Book Cellar and was the original facility for the Paducah School of Art & Design -- married couple Jessica and Nancy Hughes, both west Kentucky natives, are hoping to create a space that's elegant, all-inclusive and comfortable.

"We don't want to narrow this place down to this or that," Jessica Hughes said. "We're very proud of the LGBTQ movement that's happening in Paducah right now, and we just want to provide a place for all people."

Jessica's grandmother, Louise, who raised her, inspired the 1940s theme and the big-brimmed hat wearing, rose-bedecked redhead in the logo.

"She's the driving force behind this lounge," Jessica explained.

"My grandmother was very classy. She was a real lady. Everything she instilled in me, I'm trying to infuse into this place."

That era is one that has always fascinated Jessica.

"The thing about the '40s that we love is the sophistication and the passion that people had back then," she said. "It was about coming together when times were hard and, in the face of all that, having a good time."

Many of the original elements of property will remain, like the shelves from the bookstore and a copper-topped bar in one of the mezzanines.

"Even down to the safe from the original B. Weille & Son," Nancy said. "That's going to remain part of the décor because it's part of what makes this building so special."

Improvements to the space, the couple said, will include a custom-built oak bar and a stage for the many performances the owners plan to host, which will include live music, comedy nights, drag shows and various other art forms.

As the couple works to clean and prepare the place for their hopeful opening date in early August, they are leaving much of its historic interior undisturbed, opting to furnish with period-specific antiques and works given to them by artists.

"We're big history buffs, so what we're trying to do is preserve the building itself," Jessica added. "We don't want to alter really anything because we feel that everything that went into this place before us is just as important."

To keep up with the River Rose Lounge as it nears its opening date, visit the business's Facebook page.

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