Happy Repeal Day! On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed, ending the famous era known as Prohibition. Can you believe that for 13 years, alcohol was illegal in the United States? Prohibition was a wild time in Chicago, but fortunately you can now visit your favorite bar without worrying about the cops raiding the joint. If you want to celebrate Repeal Day in style, here are a list of famous Chicago watering holes that served as illegal speakeasies back in the day.
Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Uptown
The Green Mill was the place for the Capone gang during Prohibition. One of Capone's key men, Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, held a quarter stake in the club. The club openly served alcohol thanks to a pay-off to the Chicago police. Even though Capone had a speakeasy across the street, he preferred the Green Mill. While the cocktail lounge has seen several owners through the years, each has kept the famous trap door behind the bar where a hydraulic elevator once brought up booze to serve patrons.
John Barleycorn, Lincoln Park
The building that houses the Lincoln Park Barleycorn has stood since 1890 and has been some sort of saloon through almost its entire history. During Prohibition, the building was boarded up to appear vacant but inside was a rowdy speakeasy. The back of the building used to be a laundry mat, and bootleggers would bring in supplies of booze in laundry carts and then down to the basement. John Dillinger was a frequent guest.
Durkin's, West Lakeview
Before 1918, Durkin's was a restaurant, but from 1918 to 1933 it was Prohibition Willy's Speakeasy. The front was a soda shop, and the actual speakeasy operated out of the bar's large back room. When the current owners renovated the bar in the '70s, they found a secret room with White Horse Scotch and Portuguese brandy.
Cork & Kerry, Beverly
This Irish bar was built as a speakeasy in 1930. Barrels of liquor were stored under the Cork & Kerry beer garden during police raids.
Schaller's Pump, Bridgeport
The city's oldest bar kept on running right through Prohibition. Ambrosia Brewery used to operate next door, pumping beer right into Schaller's Pump. (That's how the bar got it's name.) Patrons were only allowed inside once they were vetted through a peephole on the south side of the building. The peephole is still there today, but it's cover in beer posters.
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