Stepping off the sidewalk of 23rd Street into Bunker Club is like being transported to a different time and place. The heavy glass door, original to the building, glides open with a firm push, revealing a lush and graceful interior. The maroon walls scallop ever so gently to the ceiling, and the curvy booths and bar seats are upholstered in gold fabric. No harsh, modern-style angles or minimalist decor can be found here.
“It’s like going to Disneyland,” explains Hailey McDermid, owner of Bunker Club. “When you’re in Disneyland, you’re not thinking about the world outside. It’s immersion. That’s the way I’ve always wanted my bars.”
Hailey’s first foray into bar ownership with her husband, Ian, began with The Pump, right around the corner on Walker Avenue. While also very stylish and retro, Hailey describes The Pump as more “comfort kitsch.” Bunker Club has taken the couple’s love of American history and design to an entirely new level.
“Ian and I are nostalgic for a time we were never a part of,” Hailey asserts with a clear enthusiasm. “We love all the advertising from that era. We loved the preparedness. It’s not a political bar. Everyone thinks it’s that. It’s not a museum. It’s an ode to the art, it’s an ode to the propaganda, it’s an ode to preparedness, the hope of a future, the fear of what’s to come, and what that inspired in people’s daily lives.”
Inspiration shines through the polished novelty of Bunker Club, brought to life by collaborative effort. With Hailey and Ian providing the vision, a slew of local artists created the murals and some of the hanging art pieces. Near the door, a painting rendered by the artists at Mind Bender Tattoo shows several famous communists and political activists, including Oklahoma’s own Woody Guthrie, standing in a line and enjoying a cold one. Ashley Smith from No Regrets Tattoo and Tanner Fraidy from Fraidy Cat Signs added another mural at the back of the bar. Those two can also take credit for the hand-lettering throughout.
“One of the things that I love about the bar, the décor, is that every part of The Pump family had a little bit to give to it,” says Glenn Bliss, assistant manager at both bars. He and many others on their team spent hours combing thrift and antique stores for the perfect items, and several even donated personal belongings to get the vibe just right.
Although the intention is to evoke the space race and atomic age of the 1950s, a savvy observer will notice plenty of anachronisms, and that’s okay. “Ian has an intense love of history. I had to remind him when we were opening that this wasn’t a museum,” Hailey reminisces.
The scenery may be the most noticeable aspect of the bar, but the drinks are a serious draw as well. Glenn, Hailey, and some of their bartenders have created fun cocktails that are elevated yet unpretentious. Fitting the theme of the Bunker Club, Hailey describes them as “imaginative atomic cocktails.”
First up, Glenn created the Manhattan Project. A reference to the United States’ undertaking during World War II to create the first nuclear weapons, it’s also a take on the classic Manhattan. “A lot of people have played with white Manhattans before, but they always come out way too harsh,” Glenn explains. “The first thing I did was cut Luxardo for the cherry flavor with Cointreau to sweeten it a little bit.” Union Horse unaged wheat whiskey, which is smoother than the typical “white dog” whiskey distilled with corn, is the key to the drink’s enjoyableness.
In addition to their list of well-crafted cocktails, Bunker Club features nineteen draft beers, as well as prosecco on tap. They provide fresh, quality beer with a local focus and also plenty of world-class brews from outside Oklahoma. Their diverse taps allow them to play around with a weekly rotating beer cocktail. One of their personal favorites was a combination of root beer whiskey, coffee liqueur, and a mint chocolate stout. “Basically making a grasshopper and floating an imperial stout on top of it,” Glenn says.
Whether you go to enjoy a cold beer and a shot, sip a craft cocktail, or partake in one of their regular events such as Tiki Tuesday, you’ll enjoy yourself at this warm and friendly bar.
> Bunker Club, 433 NW 23rd Street, Oklahoma City