The first "legal" beer cases arriving at the White House, showing the end of prohibition decided by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt , april 1933 (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - December 5 is the 90th anniversary of the end of prohibition, the "noble experiment" which got started in D.C. years before the rest of the nation.
The District went dry on November 1, 1917, while the rest of the country didn’t give up the booze until 1920.
But D.C. didn’t end up all that dry during Prohibition, with historians estimating 22,000 gallons of liquor entered D.C. every week to keep more than 3,000 speakeasies stocked.
Congress itself even employed its own bootleggers. George Cassiday, a bootlegger also known as The Man in the Green Hat, sold liquor for a decade to congressmen and senators, operating from the Cannon House Building and the Russell Senate Office Building.
On December 5, 1933, Amendment 21 of the Constitution – the "Repeal of Prohibition" – was ratified, repealing the previous 18th Amendment which had banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol nationwide.
While most of D.C.’s original speakeasies and social clubs are no more, there are still a few signs of the District’s history with prohibition that linger to this day.
Beuchert’s Saloon in Capitol Hill is housed in the same space as a former speakeasy run by John Ignatius Beuchert and his son Theodore from 1880 to 1934.
During Prohibition, the space was converted into a sewing shop. But when owners began renovating the space, contractors found hundreds of empty Prohibition-era liquor bottles.
Today, the farm-to-table restaurant has been decorated to bring back that touch of history, with a 19th-century look.
The Tune Inn in Capitol Hill has seen a lot of changes over the years. The building that houses Tune Inn was a candy shop during Prohibition – but also operated as a speakeasy for the gentleman of Congress. Historians say that customers who knew the right word would be taken to the basement, where they could purchase bottles of alcohol.
Once Prohibition ended, The Tune Inn went by the books – they claim they have the second-oldest liquor license in D.C.
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 04: A patron smokes outside of the Tune Inn on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, which reopened for business Friday after being closed since June due to a kitchen fire. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
THE MAYFLOWER CLUB
During Prohibition, the fourth floor of 1223 Connecticut Avenue was a speakeasy featuring a 30-foot bar, decorated with a mural of Mahatma Gandhi and other famous figures playing piano.
The restaurant and bar today pays homage to the former speakeasy by adopting its former name, The Mayflower Club. The upstairs bar and club area, Zebbie’s Garden, is named after the building’s old proprietor, Zachariah "Zebbie" Goldsmith. The area is decorated with Insta-friendly flowers, neon lights, swings and a faux grass floor. While grabbing a drink at the current Mayflower Club will give more nightclub than speakeasy, you can still enjoy a taste of the past on your next night out in DuPont Circle.
THE HARLOT DC
Club Caverns started in the basement of a drugstore on the corner of 11 and U St NW in 1926. The club played host to many famous jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.
In the 50s, the club was renamed Bohemian Caverns, and was transformed into the premier jazz venue of DC, booking acts like Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Nina Simone.
Since its heyday, the site changed hands a number of times and saw some financial strains. In 2016, a vehicle hit the building, and Bohemian Caverns went out of business.
Today, the space is Harlot DC, a restaurant and bar that still features live music as well as events like Saturday Drag Brunch.
WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES: The Bohemian Cavern club on Washington's U Street 20 April, 2005. In 1926 a little jazz club was opened in the basement of a drugstore located at 11th and U Sts called Club Caverns. It soon became famous for their floor and variety shows. In the 1950's Club Caverns soon became known as Crystal Caverns. The club would operate successfully, but it would reach its zenith peak when the club became known as Bohemian Caverns in the late 1950's to early 1960's. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
OLD EBBITT GRILL
Old Ebbitt Grill calls itself ‘the oldest saloon in D.C.’ and dates back to 1856, when it was a restaurant at the Ebbitt House Hotel, one of the first hotels in D.C. to remain open all summer. Old Ebbitt Grill moved multiple times throughout its history before landing at 675 15th Street NW in 1983.
While many of the saloon’s collection of antiques and memorabilia didn’t make the move in 1983, the antique clock over the revolving door at the entrance is an heirloom from their previous location at 1427 F Street NW, where they were located since the 1920s.
A June 1, 2016 photo shows patrons in front of the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, DC. The iconic establishment is claimed to be the oldest restaurant and bar in the city. Michelin's fabled guide is rolling into the US capital city for the first time, officials said Tuesday. Anonymous Michelin inspectors are already out dining their way across Washington, the fourth US city to get its own guide. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
The location at 1610 U Street housed McCarthy’s Saloon pre-Prohibition, and is rumored to have been a famous speakeasy after Prohibition was passed in the District. Liquor bottles have been said to have been found in the basement with the address 1610 U Street on the label. In 1980, the space became Stetsons Famous Bar & Grill, but is now Exiles Bar, a 2023 Rammy Award winner for Best Bar in DC.
ROUND ROBIN BAR
The circular bar at the Willard InterContinental Hotel was established in 1847, back when the hotel was known as the City Hotel. The bar is known for playing host to a number of politicians, socialites and artists, including Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman. It’s also known for their signature Mint Julep, which legend has it Henry Clay introduced to the D.C. bar.
Lobby of New Willard Hotel in Washington, DC (Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
THE RAVEN GRILL
Perhaps one of D.C. 's few true dive bars, the Raven Grill is also the holder of one of D.C.’s oldest liquor licenses. Even though it has ‘grill’ in its name, the spot doesn’t serve food – unless you count potato chips. The cozy Mount Pleasant spot focuses instead on serving up beers and rail drinks to locals.
WASHINGTON, DC -- JUNE 09: Regulars at the Raven, from left: Roy Moody, Jose Torres, Gustavo Maldonado, Trent McGrath, and Ajeeth Ibrahim. All are DC residents. The Raven Grill in Mt. Pleasant is one of the favorite dive bars in the city. The special is a Natty Boh and a shot of Jameson's and the decor is ratty booth and neon. Gretchen Georgiadis was a regular at the Raven for 12 years before becoming the General Manager. (photo by Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
On February 28, 1934, the first of many liquor licenses in D.C. post-Prohibition was granted to the National Press Club in D.C. Press Club President William C. Murphy, Jr. received the first liquor license at midnight, which was broadcast live on the radio.
The National Press Building, in fact, was built on the same space as Old Ebbitt Grill in 1925, 9 years before the end of Prohibition in D.C.
Nowadays, the National Press Building hosts events and conferences, and is the location of SPIN DC Ping Pong Club and Bar.
The Temperance Fountain at 7th Street and Indiana Ave NW was supposed to supply free ice water to visitors.
The fountain’s original location at 7th and Pennsylvania Ave was near a slew of saloons, where the hope was to entice passers-by to drink water – and not be tempted by whiskey.
The fountain features an inscription naming Henry D. Cogswell, a dentist who commissioned the fountain, as well as the words "temperance," "faith," "hope" and "charity." The fountain is topped by a life-sized heron to join two dolphins, through which water once flowed before the city disconnected the supply pipes.
While you can’t wet your whistle at this fountain these days, it’s worth walking by for a bit of history before heading across the street to Penn Quarter Sports Tavern for a drink – alcoholic or not.
Temperance fountain, at 7th and Indiana Ave. NW in Washington, DC on December 22, 2010. (Photo by John Kelly/The Washington Post via Getty Images)