Saturday, March 14, 2009

tied houses

I enjoyed a delicious Schlitz Beer at the Gale Street Inn in Jefferson Park on Thursday evening. Schlitz is "The Beer that made Milwaukee Famous" (their slogan) or "If ever a beer tasted like it was brewed in a toilet, this is it." Oh, I like Schlitz. A $3.75 Schlitz is a bit -- cough cough -- much; however, Gale Street Inn pours it into a fancy glass, a fancy glass that makes me feel fancy in turn, so... (shrug)

Drinking that delicious fame-making brew got me thinking of Schlitz Tied Houses. Lakeview bars Schubas and Southport Lanes are examples of well-preserved Tied Houses in Chicago. There is a terrific article about these Tied Houses at Forgotten Chicago (lots of cool pictures!). From the article:

A “tied house” was a type of saloon that originated in England, but gained infamy in pre-prohibition America. An institution that was believed to promote intemperance, tied houses were one of many factors leading to national prohibition in 1919. A number of former tied houses remain in Chicago, long after the practice has been made illegal. Most of the remaining buildings were tied to the Milwaukee-based Schlitz brewery.

Ironically, the event which led to tied houses arising in Chicago came from an attempt at reforming liquor sales. In 1884, license fees to operate a saloon in the city were steeply raised in order to squeeze out lower class dives. Instead of going out of business, many saloon owners who could not afford the fee turned to breweries for financial assistance. The brewery would supply all the necessary accouterments to run a saloon. In exchange, the saloon keeper would be compelled to sell only that supporting brewery’s beer.
If you're a Chicago familiar, you'll see former Tied Houses around town.

The history of Prohibition is fascinating, and it illuminates some of the current, quiet rumbling about the possibility of legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana to help sad-sack budget shortfalls. Of course there have always been pot-smoking, sandal-wearing hippies in California saying happy tabaccy should be legal. Maybe our totally hosed economy will help legalize the dread weed before drunk drivers crash futuristic flying cars into the 23rd floor of a downtown building.