The prohibition era of the 1920s is a fascinating period in American history. During this time, the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages were banned in the United States. It gave rise to a network of illegal drinking establishments known as speakeasies. These secret bars operated illegally and were hidden in basements, alleyways, and other secret locations. New York City was a hotbed for these illegal watering holes, and they played a significant role in shaping the city's culture and nightlife.

The Culture of Speakeasies

The culture of speakeasies was a unique one. Because these bars operated illegally, they were often run by criminal organizations. This meant that they were often dangerous places, with fights, shootings, and other criminal activities taking place. However, speakeasies were also places where people could let loose and have fun. They were often lively, with music, dancing, and entertainment. Speakeasies were also places where people could socialize with others who shared their love of alcohol, creating a sense of community.


The Rise of Speakeasies in the City

New York City was one of the major centers of the speakeasy culture during the prohibition era. The city had a large population, a thriving nightlife, and a significant demand for alcohol. The demand for illegal booze gave rise to a network of speakeasies that catered to all tastes and budgets. From upscale clubs like the Cotton Club, which featured famous performers like Duke Ellington and Lena Horne, to low-key bars hidden behind unmarked doors, there was a speakeasy to suit every taste. Some of the most famous speakeasies in NYC included the 21 Club, the Stork Club, and the El Fey Club, which was run by infamous gangster Owney Madden. Speakeasies in New York City were often hidden in plain sight, with secret entrances that were disguised as everything from flower shops to telephone booths.


The End of Prohibition and the Legacy of Speakeasies

The prohibition era came to an end in 1933, with the ratification of the 21st Amendment. This amendment repealed the 18th Amendment and made alcohol legal again in the United States.

The end of prohibition marked the end of speakeasies as well. However, the legacy of these secret bars lived on. Speakeasies had a significant impact on American culture, influencing everything from fashion to music. They also became an enduring symbol of the rebellion and the pursuit of pleasure that characterized the prohibition era.


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February 15, 2023 — Myrat Saryyev