Prohibition in Rochester

Prohibition in Rochester

Imagine, if you will, a world without alcohol. More realistically, what if you woke up one day and all of the stores stopped selling alcohol? There are those that wouldn’t mind I suppose. Non-drinkers for whatever reason, whether it be religious, personal,or state enforced. That group is in the minority though. An outstanding 86.8% of all citizens of this fine country of ours will consume alcohol at some point in their lives, with a still amazing 70.7% having had a drink within the past year, and 56.4% within the past month. Numbers don’t lie. We love our booze! So I ask you again to picture a world where the beer is permanently gone.

Bar doors are locked, and windows are boarded. Neon signs that once shined brightly into the night like fluorescent lighthouses, are no longer electric beacons drawing drunken travelers to their seats. Darkened, the have become foreboding talismans that ward off any aimless travelers. informing them that the wells of this spring had also run dry. Not due to consumption my friend, oh no, all our wonderfully crafted libations were taken away. Ripped from our hands without a care about our rights.

Why? Because felt they knew what was best. They crossed the line, but do we just give in? Do we let them, the soulless bureaucrats, take away our freedoms? No, we don’t fold under pressure! We rise to the occasion! We will continue to give the people what they want! There is beer here! There is beer here, and there will be until the make us shut our doors! Even then, even once they shut us down, we’ll open back up again. Wine and spirits will flow from basements, back alleyways, and bootleggers. You may say no, but we say yes! So if you want my beer, come and get it. Just know, my other hand has a fist at the end of it!
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This was the basic attitude of my beloved hometown, the flour city, or the flower city, which ever you prefer, the city of Rochester, New York. Throughout entire period of prohibition, saloons and taverns continued to provide their services to patrons that were brave enough to break the law. It seems there were not many that felt the need to even pretend like the law existed. In Rochester, and other cities just like it across the country, the people refused to give up what was the life blood the community.

Over 1,000 breweries in this city were crippled by the enactment of the 18th amendment. How could anyone think that this many men and women losing their jobs could be good for the families that depended on the steady wage the brewery provided? I mean sure, many attempted to stay afloat by brewing the beer with the approved level alcohol, which was less than .5% alcohol. Who could ever drink something like that and be happy? It’s like, people that drink non-alcoholic beer. What’s the fucking point!? The companies that make that sacrilegious chum should be ashamed of themselves. The thought makes me so mad! Why!? Why torture yourself? Would you masturbates to the point of release and just stop? I know that’s a bit crude,but there is no point drinking a non-alcoholic beer it’s just practicing for a relapse. I think any friend of Bill W could tell you that.

What happens now is simple. Like Le’Bron some people decide to take their talent elsewhere, namely to the streets. As I said before the people love their booze. The figures I gave you earlier represented present day alcohol consumption. The numbers from around time weren’t much different. The amount of the populace that consumed alcohol was at about 80% around that time, with it dropping to around 50% during prohibition. That’s a 30% drop but prohibition was still considered a failure. That’s because drinking went down, but organized crime saw a rise.

Gangster icons were created in this era. Al Capone and the Chicago crime family, Enoch ”Lucky” Johnson down in Atlantic City, and Charles “Lucky” Luciano. These men would reach the heights of their success during this time in history. Millions were made. Much of it stained with blood due to wars that men fought in order to remain in control of the money that flowed in. People paid high prices for illegal hooch. Rochester had no shortages of speakeasies. It was once even said to to have double the amount of speakeasies as saloons that were shut down. One of the more infamous bootlegging operations was run out of the Schuyler Hotel. Formally of 801 N. Clinton Ave Rochester N.Y.

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Run by a few brewery employees, a weekly shipment of illegal spirits kept everything running like clock work. The Schuyler family owned the houses directly behind the hotel, which only help with ease of operations. Another such speakeasy was operating out by Charlotte. Their supply, naturally, was made up of fine Canadian alcoholic beverages. The name of this waterfront establishment was the Sea Glades. Both of these places did well during the “great experiment,” as prohibition was once called. They offered continued to offer a steady supply of booze served in an relaxed environment.

The local directory still listed many bars and lounges. The people of this city were going to drink until the end of time if the had any say in it. Things did begin to get a bit dicey. The raids increased across the city but more and more patrons chose to break the law than you would believe. Lawyers, doctors, and even officers sworn to uphold the law took part in the blatant disrespect for our government. That was our city. Drinking and partying. Throwing caution to the wind and having the good time prohibition was attempting to eliminate.

UP NEXT: Prohibition over!: the end of an era and what led up to it.