Not sure where to start on your next night out? Bring your buddies to these happening basement bars in downtown Durham.
By Anna-Rhesa Versola | Photography by John Michael Simpson
This modern speak-easy in the basement of the historic Kress Building on West Main Street was formerly occupied by Quarter Horse Bar & Arcade.
“Having Glori in Durham means everything to us,” says owner Joi Deberry. The bar is named for her husband and fellow owner John Deberry Jr.’s charismatic, life-of-the-party aunt. “[Glori] is different; it brings an elevated experience to the city, and it’s reflective of us. We feel good in this space, and the feedback we get is the same. Growing up here, we didn’t think something like this was possible – to be two kids from Durham and own a bar downtown.”
Glori is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. until midnight.
Melissa Katrincic and her husband, Lee Katrincic, expanded their Conniption Gin-making business in 2020 to include a cocktail bar and lounge in Durham Distillery’s basement space, which takes its name from both the classic Corpse Reviver No. 2 cocktail as well as the coffins that were made in the building in the ’60s. Visitors can enjoy martinis, live music and more at the underground art deco–inspired bar at 715 Washington St. Spirits are poured from 4-11 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and on Sundays from 2-8 p.m.
In 2016, owner Erin Karcher and her former business partner, Lindsey Andrews, felt it was the right time to open a tarot-inspired bar, intending to draw “a community of artists, witches and musicians while providing a safe space for women and the queer community.”
“We carved out Arcana in a space that had never been a bar before,” Erin says about the location tucked behind its surface-level neighbors on West Main Street – Viceroy and Blossom & Bone Florals – in the historic Snow Building. The entrance is at the rear of the property, off the parking lot on Ramseur Street. “I couldn’t be prouder of the space we’ve created in the community,” Erin says. “I love that folks think of us as a safe space.”
Arcana is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, 6 p.m. to midnight, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight.
By day, Connell “Nellie” Vail works as the chief financial officer at tech company Spreedly. At night, she gets creative as co-owner of an intimate basement bar that compliments the vibe of its upstairs sister bar and restaurant Bar Virgile, at 105 S. Mangum St.
“Downtown Durham made sense because we already knew the opportunity was there,” Nellie says. “Our philosophy has always been: The more restaurants, bars and small businesses open up, the better off we all are to be a part of a booming, vibrant [city].”
Annexe now also offers a late-night menu to accompany its mix of beats and bevies. It’s open Mondays through Thursdays from 6 p.m. to midnight and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Michelle Vanderwalker is a clay artist who designed this basement bar that she owns with Sean Umstead. Their cocktails intentionally focus on locally grown ingredients to support small farms in the area. Michelle ensured the space would have room to feature work by other local artists as well.
Kingfisher is open Mondays through Thursdays from 6 p.m. until midnight, Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. and Sundays from 4-10 p.m. The Jeremy “Bean” Clemons Trio performs live jazz on Tuesdays from 9-11:30 p.m.
Founded in Weldon, North Carolina, in 2019 by Bruce Tyler and Michael Hinderliter, Weldon Mills Distillery opened a spirits room at 300 E. Main St., Ste. 001 in early March. Come around to the entrance off the alley on Roxboro Street for craft cocktails made with the distillery’s whiskey, vodka, gin and flavored liquors.
Bottle sales are daily until 9 p.m. Parking is available at 326 E. Main St. after 7 p.m. on weekdays and weekends. Its hours are 2-11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, noon to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and noon until 10 p.m. on Sundays.