By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com Nightlife Blogger
Nightlife went underground in United States in the 1920s, hidden from view. And, in theory at least, from federal agents and local law officials. It came of hiding again in the early 1930s.
The reason for its disappearance was the Eighteenth Amendment of 1919, which had established a nationwide ban on the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol. The reason for its remergence was the Repeal of Prohibition, Amendment 21 to the U.S. Constitution, ratified on Dec. 5, 1933, a date that is celebrated to this day. The exact time, for those wanting to raise a glass to commemorate the moment booze was legaal again, was 5:32 p.m. ET.
The end of Prohibition actually started some months earlier with the Cullen–Harrison Act. Signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 22, 1933, it authorized the sale of 3.2 percent beer (thought to be too low an alcohol concentration to be intoxicating) and wine, which allowed the first legal beer sales since the beginning of Prohibition on Jan. 16, 1920. In 1933 state conventions ratified the Twenty-first Amendment and it was fully ratified on that joyous December day in 1933.
The irony is that it often became more difficult to get a drink after Prohibtion than when it was in effect. That is because prior to it, there were few (if any) rules and regulations on where and when you could drink it or at what age. The 21st Ammendment established laws such as licensing, operating hours for bars and age limits. Those are rules that still exist today, tho they very by states and often even by cities.
During Prohibition, people drank in bars hidden in cellars or basements of buildings, many of which contained bars prior to the Eighteenth Ammendment and were disguised as restaurants during it. Today, speakeasies still exist, tho manily as a gimic, although some old bars still have their original speakeasy basements and cellars.
The big end of Prohibition party, called “Repeal Night” saw many Americans celebrating in bars and singing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” But it was not a drunkfest, simply a celebration. The next day, a headline in the New York Times read “New York Celebrates with Quiet Restraint” wiht the story stating “Greenwich Village was almost somber in early evening; the sparkle had gone out of speakeasies turned legal.”
It is important to note that the end of Prohibition helped finance President’s Rosevelt’s New Deal, which put America back on its feet during the depression. The first year, the government collected more than $258 million in alcohol taxes, which accounted for nearly 9 percent of the government’s total tax revenue.
Once America emerged from Prohibition, and then the Depression and World War II, nightlife became a bigger part of the country’s culture. Things were conservative in the 1950s but the emergence of rock ‘n roll, Elvis, the hippie generation and finally the disco craze. By then, nightlife in America was booming as it expanded from bars and pubs to nightclubs, sports bars, theme bars, lounges, restaurant-bars, live music venues and mega-clubs like the ones in Las Vegas and major cities in the U.S.
Today, nightlife in America continues to thrive and in a way we all have the Repeal of Prohibition to thank for it.
About PubClub.com And Kevin Wilkerson
PubClub.com is one of the original websites on the Internet. It features articles on nightlife, food & drink, events, activities, travel and sports. It has been featured in USA Today, the LA Times and American Way magazine, among other major media outlets. Kevin Wilkerson is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in daily newspapers and with the Associated Press. He has been to pubs and clubs throughout the world and has written reviews of many of them.