Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Washington D.C. Prohibition repealed! [79 years ago]

Here's an advertisement published in the Washington Herald, on 7 February 2013, for Heurich Home Brew, a beer brewed by the Christian Heurich Brewing Company. At less than 2% alcohol-by-volume, this was pretty much a 'near beer,' and possibly a test of what the Washington, D.C., brewery might have to produce if Prohibition were ratified. Which, regrettably, it was.

Heurich Wholesome Home Brew

National Prohibition began on 17 January 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, and would continue through 5 December 1933, when it was repealed by the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, an interregnum that H.L. Mencken, Baltimore-based literary reporter/satirist, referred to as those "Thirteen Awful Years."

In Washington, D.C., it was a bit more awful. There, local Prohibition had begun nearly three years earlier, and would continue several months longer.

On 1 November 1917, Congress, under its Constitutional authority over the city, enacted the Sheppard Act, prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, and sale of intoxicating beverages within the District Of Columbia. Congress wouldn't repeal the city's Prohibition until 1 March 1934. Although tardy, that repeal legislation would become a model for other jurisdictions in the U.S. on how to regulate, license, and control alcohol sales, as opposed to dispensing it directly.
In place of unfettered bootlegging would be alcohol licensing, regulation, taxation, and a control board. [Anti-Prohibition crusader] Rufus Lusk proposed a drinking age at eighteen, except for any alcohol with 14 per cent alcohol by volume, or higher, in which case you had to be twenty-one. It established licensing for bars, hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments to sell alcohol. ... Most states adopted similar licensing as they established Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) boards
Prohibition in Washington, DC: How Dry We Weren't. Garrett Peck.

The date, March 1st 2014, will mark the 80th anniversary of alcohol's legal return to the District of Columbia. Will the city's (five) breweries, (one) distillery, and many bars and restaurants celebrate?

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  • Reproduction courtesy Ghosts of DC blog.
  • Pronounced "Hi-rick", the Chr. Heurich Brewery closed in 1956, and the land on which it stood, donated for what is now the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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