Saturday, August 23, 2008

Post-Prohibition Beer Revival and the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933

Today marks the 75th Anniversary Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933. The storm was one of the worse in history for eastern Virginia. The storm's devastation also had an affect on the first post-prohibition beer halls in Virginia. From the Free Lance-Star:
The day after a nameless, catastrophic hurricane hit Colonial Beach on Aug. 23, 1933, scavengers in bathing suits dove in the Potomac River for bottled treasure.

Three beer piers built that year in the Maryland waters of the river had been destroyed in the storm. Crates of beer had fallen to the bottom of the river.

The "adventurous swimmers dove in for the suds, savoring their rewards in the river lest they violate Virginia law," hurricane historian Rick Schwartz wrote in "Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States."

The beer piers of the Potomac were a rapid response by thirsty Virginians to the impending end of Prohibition. The 1920 amendment to the Constitution outlawed the manufacture, distribution and sale of intoxicating beverages.

After Congress authorized the repeal of Prohibition in February, 1933, and subsequently allowed 3.2% alcohol beer, Maryland reacted quickly. On April 7 beer was legal in Maryland. However, Virginia's Governor supported Prohibition and delayed the legalization of beer. Enterprising Virginians realized the waters of the Potomac River belonged to Maryland. They soon built piers off the shores of Colonial Beach and Fairview Beach on which to house beer halls, which were technically located in Maryland, not Virginia.

After the destruction of the piers, Colonial Beach acted to ban "any sort of structure beyond low water in the Potomac River." The town also prohibited the operation of "any beer garden, bar room or other business on [the] shore front without a permit." In September the town did enact beer-license requirements and the "revival" continued with the repeal of Prohibition in December of 1933.

See "Storm Interrupted Town's Alcohol Revival, But Not For Long"
Also, "Hurricane anniversary brings flood of memories"

1 comment:

  1. Great story! Many such stretches of absurd alcohol laws continue to this day. There's a wonderful anecdote told in "Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty". The United States Shipping Board was a public/private entity; among other ships, in 1922 it was operating a German steamer ship that had been captured during WWI. As soon as the ship would leave the territorial waters of the US, the bars on-board were opened, fully stocked with beer, wine, and spirits. Thus the US government itself was "flagrantly violating its own national regulations." The more things change ...


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