Bottoms up, D.C. drinkers. It was on this day in 1934 that alcohol again became legal in the District, some 16 years after Congress had decided that alcohol prohibition would be a good idea.
Wait, but isn’t the repeal of prohibition celebrated on December 5? Sure, in the rest of the country it is, but because of the District’s semi-colonial status, we had to deal with prohibition before anyone else and were stuck with it for longer than anyone else. It wasn’t until three months after the rest of the country had started enjoying booze again that D.C. drinkers got their first crack at legal liquor again.
At midnight on Feb. 28, 1934, D.C. police hand-delivered liquor licenses to more than 200 establishments around town. The first to get one? The National Press Club. According to Garrett Peck, author of the fantastic “Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t,” other lucky institutions included the Mayflower Hotel, the Willard Hotel, Hotel Washington, the Army and Navy Club, and the Cosmos Club. The first liquor store to get a license was Ace Beverage, which at the time was in Adams Morgan. (Today it remains in existence, but in Foxhall.)
And just how thirsty was everyone in the District? Thirsty enough to sustain the 1,660 liquor licenses that the city’s alcohol board had handed out by July 1934. Regardless, prohibition did have side effects — none of the District’s four breweries survived.
Thankfully, the city’s local drinking culture seems to have sprouted back up, with three functioning breweries and the first distillery in over 50 years, which, appropriately enough, makes a gin named after the man who fed Congress’s drinking habits during those dry years.