The JJ Russell Cigar Shop operated from 1923-1935, during the height of Prohibition at the very address that today is Bourbon & Branch™. According to local historian, Officer James Jarvis, scores of exquisitely dressed customers visited JJ Russell's Cigar Shop at all hours of every day during Prohibition, although not too many cigars were ever sold. Russell's was well known during Prohibition among the drinking people of San Francisco as being a safe social gathering place. Between 1923-1933, there wasn't a single raid at this Jones Street speakeasy by Prohibition Agents. The story goes that one needed to knock on the Cigar Shop door and provide a password just to gain entry. Once inside the shop, if a particular brand of cigar was requested, then that would cause a floor trap door to open. Visitors would then be escorted downstairs by a cigar salesman to the basement of JJ Russell's where the most notorious barkeeps of the day held court, treating their guests to the finest bootlegged contraband shipped to the San Francisco coast from Vancouver.

Still in effect today, the speakeasy featured five secret exit tunnels with one of those specifically designated as a Ladies Exit, the most obscure. These exit tunnels allowed for a quick underground getaway from the basement speakeasy all the way up to Geary Street, further up at Jones Street, and two exits to O'Farrell Street. The Ladies Exit granted safe passage all the way to Leavenworth Street, a full block away. The Speakeasy also sported an elaborate brass warning bell system connected to the main lever located behind the counter of the Cigar Shop upstairs.
Bourbon and Branch™ 2017