Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Repeal Day

Today, December 5, is known as Repeal Day in drinking circles. On this day lovers of alcohol toast the anniversary of the Twenty-first Amendment's ratification in 1933, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment's prohibition on alcohol.

Prohibition began in 1920 and quickly sank the country into a pit of sin and debauchery. Awakened, America never looked back. Prohibition lasted for thirteen years and is widely seen as a failed social and political experiment and an example of what happens when the government attempts to legislate private behavior. But, in fairness, how much can you really expect from a movement that had the enthusiastic backing of the Klu Klux Klan?

Society in the 1920s was divided up into two camps: dries and wets. Dries would march home after work, tense and stressed out, while wets would stumble out of speakeasies after a night of jazz music and dancing. Word got around. Soon even the dries were begging to get wet, screaming at FDR to repeal the damned Eighteenth amendment. Meanwhile, gangsters such as Al Capone, lived in opulence above the law, presiding over a complex distributing network, laying the foundations for modern day organized crime.

The main problem with Prohibition was that it was extremely hard to enforce in the private lives of people. The desire to have a drink was never addressed, and suppliers found a way to meet it. In the end hard working citizens grew tired of having to sneak around for a a nip here and there. But the movement was not without it's positives. Had we never attempted to outlaw drinking we never would have had the Roaring Twenties, the rise of gangsters, rum running, hooch making, and, of course, the super cool speakeasy.

Speakeasies were underground bars that discreetly served patrons liquor, along with food and music. The term speakeasy originated from bartenders telling patrons to “speak easy” when ordering so as not to be overheard. Speakeasies were often unmarked establishments. Sometimes they were behind or underneath other businesses. Often the only way you could get in the door was with a secret password. How cool is that? On top of this, speakeasies were often funded by organized crime and could be very elaborate and upscale. By the end of the 1920s Al Capone controlled every speakeasy in Chicago.

Prohibition was repealed with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, 1933. The amendment clearly stated that 1) the Eighteenth Amendment was hereby repealed and 2) happy hour hereby begins at 5:00 and runs until 8:00, closing time will be 2:00 am and not 2:05.

Today Repeal Day is gaining popularity among the drinking public, not just as a celebration of the right to drink but as a toast to freedom. Those who don't like it can just stay home. Soon Repeal Day will take its rightful place among other great American drinking days: St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Halloween. So, if you'll be out tonight, toast one for Repeal Day and freedom of choice.

Stay wet, people!

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