Washington’s Prohibition Farce

In 1923, bootleggers and speakeasies bypassed the ostensible ban on alcohol. As a New York Times Magazine article documented, that even occurred in the nation’s capital, where the Prohibition constitutional amendment originated.

Certain minor employees about the House and Senate supplement their meagre [sic] salaries, it is said, by doing a little bootlegging on the side.

Two bootleggers came to blows not long since on Capitol Hill, because one of them resented trespass by the other in distributing white corn liquor on the second floor of the House Office Building, which he regarded as his personal preserve.

One difference between D.C. and elsewhere was the former’s “go big or go home” approach to alcohol.

It is not true in Washington, as it is in New York and many other cities, that there are places where a single drink may be purchased. The sales are in bulk, so far as can be learned; but one bootlegger, who is also proprietor of a restaurant, says he sells sixty gallons of hootch a day and that the restaurant interferes seriously with his business.

Do as I say, clearly, but not as I do.

This article combining the subjects of D.C. and alcohol got me thinking. I perform most weekends at Georgetown Piano Bar. Does anybody know whether there were any piano bars in D.C. a century ago? Surely there were bars, at least legal ones both before and after Prohibition, but were there piano bars specifically? 

If anybody can provide any insight, please post in the comments.

Washington’s Prohibition Farce

Published: Sunday, January 14, 1923

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