Prohibition began on January 16, 1920 with the 18th amendment to the U.S. constitution outlawing the manufacture, sale, transportation, import and export of intoxicating liquors. It lasted until its repeal with the ratification of the 21st amendment on December 5, 1933. Despite its illegality, a large proportion of Americans drank anyway, fueling widespread corruption and funding organized criminal organizations across the country.

This was the era of Al Capone and J Edgar Hoover, Speakeasies and Flapper Girls. This was the Roaring 20s and the first years of the Great Depression. Prohibition itself was a grand, misguided gesture in a country unafraid of thinking big. It took thirteen years of near ubiquitous lawlessness to correct.

Repeal Day is a great time to remember both the folly and the resilience of which our country is capable.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara had a special role to play during the dry years of Prohibition. Its long coastline and various inlets and caves over on the Channel Islands made this area one of the top three areas for rum runners to hide their ships. And though Los Angeles was the destination for a lot of the illegal hooch, it came ashore here.

Our town was also host to several Speakeasies, including one in the Balboa Building. During renovation, our friends at Blush found a trap door and secret entrance to an underground speakeasy beneath the old Zelo building.


Last year, Prohibition got a boost in the public eye from two major television productions.


Ken Burn’s Prohibition is a three-part, five-and-a-half-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed.  “Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality.”

Boardwalk Empire

HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, from Terence Winter, the Emmy Award-winning writer of ‘The Sopranos’, and Academy Award Winning Director Martin Scorsese, ‘Boardwalk Empire’ is set in Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition. “The Great War is over, Wall Street is about to boom and everything is for sale, even the World Series. It is a time of change when women are getting the vote, broadcast radio is introduced, and young people rule the world.”

A Growing Movement

Repeal Day has been growing nationwide as a day to celebrate the end of prohibition. In 2006, noted blogger and head bartender at Clyde Common in Portland Oregon, Jeffrey Morganthaler, kicked off an effort to claim the holiday as our own unique historical moment. Since then, the day has seen steadily growing interest.

 In 2008, on the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, several groups launched efforts to remind America of the importance of the day.