On Saturday, November 11, 2023, we visited a new downtown bar called The Haunt. It is owned and operated by the folks behind The Slaughterhouse haunted attraction at 500 Locust St.
After a Halloween night soft opening, The Haunt opened to the public on the weekend of November 10-11. The current hours are Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 1:30am. We showed up a bit after 5pm and looked for a place to park. While the entrance to the haunted house is off of Locust St., the entrance to The Haunt is around the corner on 5th Ave. next to a parking garage. If you get lucky, you can part at a meter right across from the entrance.
After entering the building, we were greeted by a security guard at a podium. We were asked if we were there for the escape room or the bar, then were directed down a flight of concrete stairs to get to the lower level of the building. (An elevator is also available, so remember to ask for it if you need it.) This is where you see the first signs that this is not a normal bar. A vampire hangs above you as you descend in to the darkness, and a clown is sitting in a chair at the bottom.
The lower level is where the haunted house, the escape room (which uses a few of the areas you pass through when visiting the haunted house), and The Haunt are located.. Restrooms are also nearby. A short walk down a themed hallway leads to the bar.
A red curtain is held open by chains, allowing you to step inside the speakeasy.
Welcome to The Haunt.
Upon entering, we were immediately impressed by how classy everything was presented — even if the theme is “run down, covered in cobwebs, and a bit bloody.”
When you enter, the full bar is at the left end, and a small stage is at the right end. Across the way is a hole torn out of the wall which leads to the pool room.
The pool room is also themed, with a very unusual lighting fixture and special effects going off occasionally (thunder and lighting flashes).
There is even a “serving hole” knocked out of the wall giving pool room patrons easy access to the bar in the next room.
The main seating area features small round tables with four chairs, and various other chairs and tables in the corners.
The whole place is incredibly detailed and looks like it could be used as a classic horror movie set. There are even some horror movie posters on the walls.
At the bar, on tap is “blood” and “piss” — two Iowa beers that taste nothing like their names (fortunately). We just had to taste each and see what they were.
There are various other beers available, including mundane domestics for those not bold enough to order “a glass of piss.”
The menus are very well presented in a wooden holder. It features a huge assortment of fun-named specialty drinks such as “The Frankenstein” or “The Mummy.” Each menu entry listed the main ingredients, plus some wordage themed to the drink. For example:
The Creature – Vanilla vodka, creme de’ menthe, chocolate and … algae.
The Invisible Man – Gin, brandy, orange liquor, ginger beer and … bandages.
We knew it was going to be a fun visit as we tried several of these offerings.
Here is the full menu as it appeared on the website for opening weekend (November 10-11, 2023):
The drinks at $9 seemed very reasonable for specialty drinks at a themed bar. Beers (on tap or craft) and Seltzers were $6, and domestic beers were $4.
The speciality drinks are available in “HAUNTED” (alcohol) or “EXORCISED” (non-alcoholic) versions. In addition to the specialty drinks, the full bar (which had two bartenders working during out visit) can make anything you want — like a boring rum and cola.
There are two unusual items that stand out: Clown Rounds (spiked snow cones) and Transylvanian Absinthe Service. The absinthe service featured an interesting presentation that most have probably never seen, let alone experienced.
I am no absinthe expert, but there is something about an absinthe cup and an absinthe spoon and a sugar cube and fire. It was quite the presentation. We only watched it this time, but plan to order one on our next visit.
We were impressed that on opening weekend the bartenders could actually make every drink we ordered. This shouldn’t even need to be mentioned, but we visited a major theme park Halloween experience earlier this year and found their bartenders had to go look up how to make their drinks. Kudos to the bar staff here for being so well prepared.
Currently, the bar is open to the public only on Friday and Saturday nights. There will be certain private events/nights that require a special key to access. These keys are going to be made available in a variety of ways, such as by having folks complete missions in the real world (go somewhere, look for something, ask a certain question, etc.). It sounds a bit like an ARG (alternate reality game).
On special nights, we were told that the white “skull” sign outside will change colors to indicate a special key holder event. We can’t wait to learn more about these.
In conclusion, the drinks are great, the prices are very reasonable, the service is fantastic, and the theming is Hollywood-quality. The Haunt would feel right at home at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. (Thought it is actually far, far better than any of the Halloween bars we saw at Universal this year.)
We can’t wait to get back and continue working our way through the menu. Great job, Lefty, Trig and all the Slaughterhouse crew that helped make this place a reality. Opening weekend felt like a polished bar that had been running smoothly for years. We wish you great success with the project.
P.S. – Without spoiling things, let’s just say you should make sure you visit the restrooms.
Work has finally begun on the Doing Des Moines video series. I started podcasting back in August 2005, and in 2007 I had plans to add a new video podcast focusing on things going on here. Other shows took priority (including one I was being paid to do by a Toyota marketing firm) so Doing Des Moines never happened.
Maybe this time it will. Work has at least begun on ideas for the video intro/outro and theme song. You can see the very rough prototypes over at the new Doing Des Moines YouTube channel:
I will be adding a form for folks to send in suggestions of places I should interview. Until then, leave a comment here or find me on the DDM Facebook Page.
Here is a short video I posted to my Des Moines Haunted House site. It covers a visit to the Blank Park Zoo’s Night Eyes event. The Doing Des Moines video show will be doing similar videos covering locally-owned businesses. If you know of someone who might want to be part of a brief (5 minutes or less) interview, please let me know.
Here is a short video I posted to my Des Moines Haunted House site. It covers a visit to the Living History Farms Family Halloween event. The Doing Des Moines video show will be doing similar videos covering locally-owned businesses. If you know of someone who might want to be part of a brief (5 minutes or less) interview, please let me know.