Ain’t No Party Like A Gangland Party
The Best of Prohibition Speakeasies
When I sell liquor, it’s bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on a silver tray on Lakeshore Drive, it’s
When the Eighteenth Amendment rolled out of Washington D.C., it decimated such industries as grapefarmers, breweries, and wineries. At the same time, however, a uniquely American undergroundindustry was built that not only filled the void left but ushered in such lasting organizations as OrganizedCrime and NASCAR.It is reported that there were more than 100,000 Speakeasies in New York City alone, and in Chicago, AlCapone controlled the flow of illegal booze and raked in over $60 million in 1927 alone. If there is one
lesson to be learned about “The Nobel Experiment,” it is that Americans
always find a way.Especially when alcohol is involved.Although Speakeasies were by their very nature a secret, some became the stuff of legend that endurestoday. Below are the best-regarded secret (and not-so-secret) watering holes of Prohibition, served witha twist of lemon when appropriate.
Mayflower Club, Washington D.C.
Known as the social hub for Political movers-and-shakers who broke the laws that they enacted, theMayflower Club was the place to be seen in Washington during the dark days of Prohibition. Thepolitical heart of D.C., the Mayflower Club had an off-street entrance for patrons to discreetly exit onthe three occasions that the club was raided during Prohibition years.Known equally for gambling as well as booze, arrests in the Mayflower Club of its high-profile clientelewere almost non-existent.
The Bohemian Caverns, Washington D.C.
A Mecca for jazz music during Prohibition, the Bohemian Caverns operated out of the basement of theDavis Drugstore on the corner of 11
and U Street. Staying open after other Speakeasies had closed, theCaverns had both white and black clientele who gathered for brined pork chops, booze served inteacups, and blazing hot jazz.Legends such as Shirley Horne, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Billie Holliday, and Pearl Bailey played theCaverns, joined by the best comedians of the day. If you lived in Washington during Prohibition and
didn’t drop by the Caverns after the Mayflower closed, then you simply didn’t really live in D.C.
Cotton Club, New York
The stuff of legend, New York’s Cotton Club was THE place for jazz in Prohibition America.
A white-onlyclub located in Harlem, the Cotton Club featured the finest black musical talent in America. Lena Horne,