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Friday, December 5, 2008

Prohibition Repealed! (75 Years Ago)

Today (December 5, 2008) marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

The 18th amendment was never popular in New York City, but it surprised even the wettest foes of Prohibition that the city voted in May 1933 by an overwhelming ratio of 44 to 1 in favor of repeal. When Utah became the 36th State to ratify repeal in November of that year, Congress ordered the law to expire at 2:00 p.m. on December 5. (Just to foil morning drinkers, we suppose.)

So, if you are so inclinded, go out a raise a glass today. The city's best-known speakeasy, Chumley's on Bedford Street, is still undergoing renovations from its well-publicized chimney collapse. But perhaps pay a visit to McSorley's Old Ale House in the East Village. Not only is it the city's oldest pub (having opened in 1854 -- or, if you believe the nay-sayers, as late as 1862), it did not close down during Prohibition. They simply moved the brewing operations to the basement and continued to serve their regular brew, calling it "near beer" (wink, wink).

McSorley's only serves its own brew--in light and dark varieties--so don't go in looking for a scotch on the rocks. For years its motto was "Good beer, raw onions, and no ladies." However, since 1970, it has allowed women to patronize the establishment and its new motto is "Be good or be gone."

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Much more about the "noble experiment," Chumley's, McSorley's, and other city bars can be found, as always, in Inside the Apple.

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