Prohibition in Washington, D.C.

The Great Gatsby and the Jazz Age wasn't just New York City...

Prohibition was an era beginning in January of 1920 with the signing of the 18th amendment, when the anti-alcohol movement finally managed to influence legislators that it should be banned.  Alcohol was banned from production, distribution and consumption.  Bars closed, breweries switched to soda and distributors closed their doors. But, as with many things, supply and demand just went underground. Instead of stopping the distribution, individuals accepted the challenge to find ways around the ban. This was even more prevalent in Washington D.C.

Prohibition in DC

The prohibition era help shaped Washing D.C into a diverse city and the mere 260 liquor licensed establishments that were forced to close the doors morphed into almost 3,000 speakeasy bars. Most of these speakeasies were located in private residences or were masqueraded as other shops. Due to its bulk and the lack of refrigeration, beer was no longer the drink of choice since, thus many speakeasy operators began distilling their own liquors. Unmarked doors, specialty lit, hidden doorways and underground entrances lead many D.C residence to a completely different life. Segregation was slowly forgotten as everyone met to enjoy a drink and escape the outside world. Though most of these speakeasy bars have been forgotten, a number of them still stand today and some even serve up the legendary drinks they served back during the prohibition era.

Prohibition was repealed by congress in 1933 with the 21st amendment to the constitution after it became abundantly apparent that Americans had long lost their commitment to a dry society. Americans literally demanded their beer.

Prohibition Speakeasy Bars In Washington D.C

The GibsonSome will say the Gibson history reaches back to the days of prohibition, others may argue otherwise but this bar definitely still encompasses the prohibition vibe. You may have trouble finding this bar as it remains an unmarked door located in 14th street. It is a cozy candlelit atmosphere that has a diverse and historic cocktail menu.

The Dirty MartiniDuring the prohibition era, The Dirty Martini was one of D.C’s most infamous speakeasy bars. This upscale space on sat on the fourth floor and ser higher end  clients during this time. Today the Dirty Martini incorporates a restaurant, bar and lounge on Connecticut Ave.

Beuchert's SaloonNow the Beuchert's Saloon is a farm to table restaurant in the eastern Market neighborhood in D.C. but during the Prohibition era it looked like an ordinary sew shop. It was not discovered until renovation began on the space that behind hidden doors housed hundreds of prohibition era liquor bottles. The saloon embraces its past through it interior décor that resembles post prohibition style saloon with small dark wooden tables, exposed bricks and a hanging chandelier.

Bohemian Caverns- In 1926 this location was hidden in the basement of a drugstore. It was a jazz club where a number of famous musicians took the stage. Today it is still recognized as the best Jazz location in the D.C area and is decorated with 20's inspired décor.

When it comes to history, D.C is overflowing with it and that is especially true of the Prohibition era atmosphere. Many newer bars are popping up all over the city that give off a speakeasy vibe with the same hidden doors and blue light signals but these four bars are not just imitation. Any history buff or liquor enthusiast will want to make a reservation at one of these authentic bars in Washington D.C.


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