Chicago Breweries | Prohibition Beer | End of Prohibition
On March 21, 1933, the United States House of Representatives completed action on the Cullen-Harrison bill, permitting the resumption of the manufacture and sale of 3.2% (alcoholic content) beer and light wines in those states that were now legally considered wet. President Roosevelt signed the bill on March 23.
Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1933
Washington, D.C., Dec. 4.—Canon William Sheafe Chase of the International Reform federation told newspaper men today that an attorney would go before the Pennsylvania Supreme court tomorrow in an effort to prevent ratification of repeal.
Chase said that an attempt had been made by the federation to persuade a Dauphin county court to take action to prevent Pennsylvania ratifying repeal.
He said: “That action was successful.”
If the Pennsylvania convention is restrained from ratifying repeal would not become effective until action of Maine on Wednesday.
Beginning at about 3 o’clock this afternoon Chicago is due to start drinking legal liquor again, after a lapse of fourteen years, five months, and five days of machine gun murders, prohibition bribery, and poison booze. Many gay gatherings in hotels, restaurants, and other places where liquor will be sold will mark the passing of the dry era.
The exact hour when sales may legally start depends upon the ratification by a state convention in Utah—the 36th state—of the 21st amendment to the constitution.
That convention meets at 1 p. m., Chicago time. If efforts to block the holding of the Pennsylvania convention earlier in the day are successful, repeal will wait until Maine ratifies tomorrow.
With repeal official, armed guards accompanied the first shipments of Old Grand-Dad Whiskey to leave a warehouse on W. Grand Avenue for release on Dec. 5, 1933.
Plentiful Supply Promised.
As to the liquor, there will be plenty of it. The quality, it is promised, will be much better than that of the bathtub gin and Halsted street Scotch of the prohibition era, and prices will be considerably lower. But the prices will still be far above the pre-prohibition level, and will not return to that level for a year or so, if ever.
A survey of the city’s liquor supply showed yesterday that there will be no lack of Bourbon whiskey, the standard drink of pre-prohibition America. There are an estimated 200,000 cases in the city now, brought in under medicinal liquor permits, most of, which, howwver, is blended (the bootleggers call it cutting).
Plenty of Gin Available.
There will be no dearth of gin, the prohibition standby, and new gin is acclaimed to be far superior to the bathtub product. The city has, or will have within a few weeks, a plentiful supply of domestic wines, largely from California, and brewers are ready with a flood of beer exceeding the 3.2 margin of the last few months.
as to imported liquors and wines, the supply is probably plentiful enough for the time being, in view of the prices which these commodities will commend. The greatest shortage, if drinkers follow the custom they learned during prohibition, will probably be Scotch whisky. There is quite a bit of imported champagne on hand—more than of the domestic variety. In fact—and a goodly sprinkling of brands, cordials, and imported still wines.
Liquor in Customs Warehouses
There were only 6,870 gallons of imported whisky, wine, and liquors under bond in Chicago customs warehouses yesterday, although withdrawals during the last few weeks, on medicinal liquor permits, had been heavy, it was announced by Anthony Osarn, collector of customs.
The stock was divided as follows:
Whiskey, 400 gallons
Sparkling Burgundy, 125 cases
Champagne, 415 cases
Vermouth, 300 cases
Cognac, 50 cases
Port wine, 500 cases
Sherry wine, 500 cases
Rhine and Moselle wines, 300 cases
A crowd cheers as a beer truck leaves a brewery at 91st Street and Second Avenue after Congress passed a bill legalizing 3.2 percent beer in April 1933
50,000 Cases at Warehouse.
One of the busiest spots in the city today will be the Railway Terminal warehouse, at 444 West Grand avenue. There will be between 50,000 and 60,000 cases are held under bond to be released to retailers as soon as repeal becomes effective.
For the information of hijackers, the warehouse is a good place to avoid. Besides the warehouse’s own guards, it is swarming with armed customs inspectors. When Philip Blum & Co., liquor brokers, received the first carload of Canadian whisky shipped to Chicago at the warehouse yesterday, 16 guards watched while a crew of 20 men unloaded it.
When the whisky is delivered today it will go out in armored trucks, as most medicinal; whicky has been delivered in recent months. The trucks bear custom house licenses, so hijackers who molest them will run the double risk of a charge of buckshot and a federal penitentiary sentence for tampering with a customs shipment.
3.2 Wine Diluted Product.
While 3.2 wine was legalized along with 3.2 beer, wine merchants pointed out that not until today will Americans be able to make legal purchases of legal wine. No wine has a natural alcoholic content as low as 3.2 per cent, which made it necessary until today to dilute it with carbonated water, producing a vapid liquid akin to soda pop.
There is a moderate supply of California wine, in excess of 400,000 gallons, in Chicago now, with more supplies arriving daily. The country as a whole has a moderate supply of the beverage, but not sufficient to bring prices to pre-prohibition levels. Good domestic wines will sell for about the same prices which were charged during the prohibition era dor the green and acrid products of the illicit vintners.
Patrons at a Walgreens store soda fountain enjoy the first 3.2 percent beers in April 1933.
California Wines Classified.
For the benefit of post-prohibition drinkers, various types of California wine were classified by George Huckins, Chicago manager of Fruit Industries, Inc. That company, Mt. Huckins said, controls about 60 per cent of the present supply of California wine aged five years or more. It has about 5,000,000 gallons of such wine.
Farewell Parties for Prohibition.
Estimation of the intensity of Chicago’s celebration of the return of liquor today ranged from the wildly bacchanal to mild Mew Year’s eveish. A number of clubs plan to hold farewell parties for prohibition tonight, and all the large hotels are opening bars and enlarging the drinking facilities they installed for 3.2 beer.
The Congress, Blackstone, Sherman, and La Salle hotels have taken the seals off the wine cellars which they closed when prohibition arrived, and the hotels built since that era began have installed new ones. Hotel expenditures on bars and liquor stocks are estimated at $1,500,000 in the downtown area alone.
Stock of Fine Whisky.
The pride of the Blackstone and Drake hotels is a stock of fine old whisky obtained by Edwin J. Brashears, head of the company operating them, which they will sell under the label of “Black Drake.” President Ernest Byfield of the Hotel Sherman has a bottle of 40 year old Basket Bourbon, that hotel’s special brand, from which he will pour the first drink at the hotel bar after a “Liberty Bell” announces that repeal is a fact.
The Palmer House is opening a new men’s café, with an oyster bar and stock ticket facilities, in which the bartenders will be attired in white jackets with gold buttons, high starched collars, and white four-in-hand ties. The Stevens Hotel has received a shipment of 200 dozen each of 16 varieties of glasses in which to serve liquors, cordials, and its wine list of 50 items.
LEFT—As Prohibition was ending, mountains of beer cases are stacked and ready to be filled Schoenhofen Brewery at 1900 W. 18th Street in March of 1933. The brewery ran two eight-hour shifts to fill 1,000 bottles a day.
RIGHT—With a competitor offering nickel beers, Joan Griswold tried to lure drinkers with three-cent steins at her drug store bar in May of 1933.
18,000 Federal Licenses.
There are 18,000 federal beer and light wine licenses in effect in the 30 counties and districts of the northern district of Illinois, Carter H. Harrison, collector of internal revenue for the district, announced yesterday, and most of the owners are paying an extra $5 for a permit to sell liquor. This is an informal arrangement, pending action on federal liquor licenses. The pre-prohibition federal license was $25, while the beer and light wines license cost $20. In the same district there are 45 licensed liquor wholesalers and 64 more applicants for wholesale licenses, and eight distilleries, two in Pekin and six i Peoria.
The return of liquor will find many cities about Chicago without local ordinances governing its sale. In Joliet Mayor William A. Hennessy has ordered that sales be confined to holders of beer licenses. Elgin has no ordinance, and the only step taken by Sheriff Harry Crawford of Kane county in connection with repeal was to warn highway deputies to be o the lookout for drunken drivers.
Aurora, which lacks a licensing ordinance, but the city council is discussing one which would permit the sale of liquor at bars, but would bar any dancing in establishments where it is sold.
Chicago Tribune, December 6, 1933
Chicagoans drank a mighty toast in legal liquor to the demise of prohibition last night and drank it it in the main like gentlemen and ladies.
While many a celebrator was scheduled to wake this morning with the realization that even good whicky will cause a headache, the “fighting drunks” of bootleg booze were noticeably fewer than in celebrations of smaller magnitude during the prohibition era.
Lid Tilted Before It’s Lifted.
Bootleg liquor had not entirely vanished from the picture, however, for it was the only supply which many reformed speakeasies were able to get.
These former speakeasy owners tilted the general repeal before it was officially lifted at 4:32 p.m. by the repeal ratification in Utah, but downtown hotels and the large loop bars observed the deadline strictly.
Without discounting their good intentions, this was a matter of necessity for most of them, since they were unable to withdraw their supplies from bonded warehouses in the city until prohibition was officially dead.
Bars Crowded for Hours.
Once the drinking started, however, the downtown bars were lined five and six deep, and stayed that way until they closed. It was well for the peace of mind of the bartenders that the city liquor ordinance forbidding standing drinking does not become effective until Saturday, for it would have been impossible to serve last night’s crowds had it been observed.
“Sweet Adeline” and other old favorites rang in many of the bars as morning neared. Wags made frequent requests of musicians for the W.C.T.U. song, “It’s in the Constitution and It’s There to Stay,” but nobody could remember the tune.
A Scene of Welcome.
A scene typical of the new drinking era was enacted at the Hotel Sherman, where Danny Monahan, who presided over the bar the night it closed 14 years ago, was back on duty with a corps of assistants.
Before the bar surged an expectant crowd of patrons. Behind it, they could feast their eyes on the labels of the hotel’s famous Basket Bourbon, of Janey & Co. brandy, of Nuyena anisette, of Boncelot Freres creme de cacao, Peres chartreuse, aloe gin, absinthe, benedictine, and a dozen others carried from the wineroom, unsealed yesterday after 14 years. The patrons feasted theur eyes, but they drank 3.2 beer.
At 4:35 a bellboy entered, swinging an old handbell such as once was used to call children to school, and the liquor began to flow across the bar.
Atlas Special Brew
Atlas Brewing Company
July 2, 1933
New Custom Is Noted.
There, as elsewhere in the city, a departure of serving drinks was noted. Instead of presenting the customer with his glass and a decanter, the bartender filled the glass from a jigger and served it.
Workmen trying to get the new Palmer House “bar for men” ready in time for repeal finished their job shortly before 4 p.m. while a crowd of several hundred pressing their noses against the window looked on. They were admitted as soon as the place was opened. The title “bar for men” meant nothing at first, for 30 per cent of the early patrons were women.
In that bar Oscar Mayer, the packer, lost a long distance contest to down the “first repeal drink” to Benjamin De Casseres New York writer. Both got a telegraphic flash of the vote in Utah at the same moment, but it took Mayer four seconds to down a Virginia toddy, while De Casseres, at a hotel in New York, tossed off a straight Scotch whisky in two and a half seconds.
Palmer House Bar showing Honore Palmer Jr.’s mural.
Frown on Boisterous Young.
Later in the evening, the crowd in the Palmer House bar was composed principally of middle aged folks, apparently survivors of pre-prohibition drinking days, who cast glances of disfavor on a few youngsters who became boisterous.
In a glass case the old patrons saw some of the silver dollars dug from the floor of the famous old bar when the old hotel was demolished a few years ago, but overhead they saw a mural which was the work of Honore Palmer Jr. It is a Ballinese scene, with naked brown girls far more shapely than the bathroom nudes of other days.
At midnight officials of the Palmer House said that guests in the bar and the hotel dining rooms had consumed 50 cases of bourbon and rye, 25 of Scotch, 50 of gin, 75 of wines, including a sizable quantity of champagne, 10 of cordials, and 20 barrels of beer.
The Congress Hotel, another famous pre-prohibition drinking spot, also did a business which John Burke, its vice president, said exceeded his fondest expectations. Every dining room in the hotel was jammed, with the height of the celebration in the Joseph Urban room. The merry-go-round bar in Peacock Alley proved a favorite with women, who swarmed to it with orders for fancy drinks.
Members of the city council finance committee adjourned a meeting with dispatch when the repeal news arrived, and on the motion of Ald. James R. Quinn (50th) reconvened in the John P. Harding bar on Clark street. Before prohibition, as Righeimer’s bar, this was a favorite gathering spot for politicians.
Telegraphic communications between Utah and the Drake Hotel apparently was not of the best, for the lid was lifted there shortly after noon. The main bar of the hotel speedily became a merry spot, with a piano going full volume and “Drink to Me Only With Three Eyes” the favorite hymn.
Pompeian Room, Congress Hotel
Opened May 11, 1933
It Is approximately 20 feet In diameter, and revolves on a circular section of the polished floor.
The Guests Get a Treat.
Later, in the main dining room, a girl wearing something less than Sally Rand rose from a champagne glass 10 feet tall.
The rush on the Drake’s bartenders became so heavy during the evening that Benjamin H. Marshall, architect and one of the officials of the hotel company, donned a white coat and served drinks for an hour.
The bar at the Blackstone started serving liquor during the evening, but the drinking there was carried on with extreme decorum. At the Stevens Hotel most of the drinking was in the dining rooms, while at the Auditorium a large crowd attended the opening of the Oak grill.
Karl Gallauer, who, in 1899, opened the Red Star Inn, famous German eating house at Germania Place and Clark street, and has operated it ever since, reopened his bar for a crowd of appreciative patrons. Their orders ran the gamut of the liquor and wine list, but many of them remained faithful to beer. At L’Algion, a French restaurant, at Ontario Street and Wabash Avenue, Teddy Majeurus, the proprietor, reported that nearly half of his guests were confining their drinking to wines.
Some Doubts in Hyde Park.
The Edgewater Beach Hotel did not open a bar, but served wine and liquor in its dining room. Its officials reported that their guests were “merry, but very orderly.” Many Hyde Park hotels, doubtful as to the old Hyde Park local option law still applies, did not open bars, but 400 persons took part in a celebration at the Chicago Beach Hotel.
La Salle street saw an illustration of the changing world during the day when a restaurant and bar opened in the building at 125 West Monroe street which still bears over its portals the name of the old Central Trust Company of Illinois.
Canvas signs, lettered “Now Open,” were hung on the tall columns outside the building, and inside drinks were pushed across a marble counter by bartenders standing where the vice presidents used to sit. There were not as many bartenders as there had been vice presidents, however.
Whoopee at the Frolics.
Champagne, which was procurable throughout the prohibition era at the Frolics Café, became legal there again last night with whoopee unrestrained. That resort went through prohibition without being padlocked, although it closed “for redecoration” a couple of times when the going became too hot.
It was opened in 1901 as Freiberg’s Music Hall, changing its name in 1917. The Bloom ran it until 1920, and it had a succession of owners after that. Dennis Cooney, long notorious as king of the 22nd street vice district, emerged in recent months as the owner of record after having held a secret interest in the place for some time.
A number of the city’s clubs held evening parties for members. At the Casino, where members held their annual meeting and reelected Mrs. Joseph M. Cudahy president, the club cellar was still empty. A number of members took champagne to the buffet supper.
The Tavern Club had a gay celebration, which reached a climax with the “resurrection” of John Barleycorn. Dinner reservations had been made for 300, and a hundred more members and their friends dropped in. A temporary bar had been erected to serve until painters completed their work on the permanent one, but the unfinished bar was pressed into service before the evening was over.
Several hundred members of the Lake Shore Athletic Club attended a repeal celebration there.
Night clubs started a crusade against bootleg liquor. Patrons who arrived bearing bottles without federal revenue stamps were asked to leave them outside the clubs. At the Old Mexico Club, 64th street and Cottage Grove Avenue, Abe Raynor, the proprietor, enforced his ban by confiscating several bottles.
While the clubs did not encourage guests to bring legal liquor with them, either, it was permitted with a corkage charge. At the Chez Paree Club on the near northside, this charge was $2 a quart outside liquor consumed at the tables.
December 6, 1933
Five Arrests Up to Midnight.
Up until midnight only five men taken to the South State Street police station, to which most prisoners from the loop go, on charges of intoxication. Police remarked that none of them were the “passouts” common under prohibition, although two were arrested after they staggered against a plate glass window of a department store and broke it.
Control of the drinkers, in fact, gave the police far less trouble than did the problem of convoying and guarding the liquor supply. The bonded warehouses of the city remained open until daybreak delivering domestic and imported wines and liquors to wholesale and retail dealers.
Deliveries form the Railway Terminal warehouse, 444 West Grand avenue, where 60,000 cases were stored under bond, did not get under way until evening. Then the first truck took a consignment for the Racine Beverage company on a 60 mile trip to satisfy the the thirsty of that Wisconsin city.
There was a traffic jam outside the Morand Brothers warehouse at Polk and May streets, where the cars of several hundred retailers calling for small consignments blocked the streets. The larger consignments were sent out in armored trucks.
License Deadline Dec. 20.
Mayor Kelly said that he would ask the police and the city collector to give liquor retailers until Dec. 20 to apply for their work $250 licenses for the first half of 1934. Under the city ordinance they must supplement their 3.2 beer license with one for next year to sell liquor.
The city council committee on licenses met in the afternoon and recommended an amendment to the retail liquor license ordinance concerning sales of liquor by druggists.
The amendment provides that druggists shall pay a $30 license fee per year for selling liquor. Before prohibition they paid $5, but since that time a general license fee, legally debatable, of $28 has been levied on drug stores by the council. This permit is to sell liquor for medicinal purposes only.
Herman J. Holthoefer, secretary of the Chicago Retail Druggists’ Association, told the committee that druggists do not want to go into the liquor business, and that before prohibition their sales averaged 10 gallons per year.