Could Alcohol Education Have Impacted Prohibition?

by: Mike Miller

This is the eighth installment on this subject looking at interesting facts and circumstances that occurred during the Prohibition Era in America (1919-1933).

While it seemed like everyone was circumventing the Volstead Act and alcohol consumption went along unabated, there was one group that suffered greatly during Prohibition – restaurants. The loss of liquor sales hit restaurants hard. In New York, many of the most venerable restaurants, including Shanley’s, Sherry’s, Recotr’s, Browne’s Corp and even Delmonico’s had all shuttered by 1923. Delmonico’s would have celebrated its hundredth birthday just six months later.

With restaurants unable to sell booze where did patrons turn? As I mentioned earlier there were locales known as speakeasies where alcohol still was sold. How did they get around the law? As I mentioned in a previous blog they circumvented the law through large bribes paid to both politicians and law enforcement officials.

These speakeasies had quite imaginative names like the Hyena Club, Ha! Ha!, the Club Pansy, Tillie’s Chicken Shack and the ever-famous Cotton Club.

While consuming their alcoholic beverages, patrons of speakeasies enjoyed some of the best live music of the day. Musicians performing at these clubs include Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, Bessie Smith, Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong.

If you think cover charges for popular clubs are pricey today, back in the 1920s cover charges at speakeasies could be as much as $20 – easily a week’s wages for most folks.

I hope you find these blogs on Prohibition interesting. We will continue to look at this incredible era again tomorrow.