Today is Repeal Day, the day we celebrate the repeal of Prohibition by the 21st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933. There are many myths and interesting back stories surrounding both the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) and the 21st Amendment (Repeal).
One of the most prevalent myths is that the 21st Amendment made drinking alcohol legal again in the United States. That’s not exactly true. The 18th Amendment, ratified back in 1920, did not made it illegal to drink alcohol, rather it made it illegal to make, sell, or transport “intoxicating liquors.” Because of this, prior to the ratification of the 18th Amendment many people and business stocked up on liquor.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited
Michigan was the first state to ratify the 21st Amendment on April 10, 1933, and when Utah became the 36th state to ratify it on December 5, 1933, it became official as three quarters of the states were needed to ratify the amendment (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states). But some states and counties remained dry for many years after the 21st Amendment was ratified, and some counties still are today.
Finally, another myth is that the 21st Amendment created the “three-tier” alcohol distribution system that is used in most states. That’s not true. The three-tier system arose in large part due to the 1933 publication of the influential book Towards Liquor Control which advocated for the economic separation of alcohol beverage manufacturers from retailers (i.e., the “tied house” saloon). In states that chose a licensing system to regulate the alcohol industry, a (mostly) mandatory middle tier of wholesalers was created. Towards Liquor Control was funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the industrialist, philanthropist, and teetotaler.
The 21st Amendment is to be celebrated, no doubt. It ended the ill-advised “noble experiment” of Prohibition and soon gave back to the people the autonomy to decide whether to make, sell. and ship liquor again -- subject to certain regulations.
If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can celebrate at the Repeal Day Bash hosted by 21st Amendment Brewery, naturally, at its new brewery in San Leandro (2010 Wiliams Street) from 12-6 p.m. Entertainment throughout the day will include a seven piece Dixieland jazz band, family friendly kid zone, 1930s themed photo booth, a casino area benefitting charity with blackjack, roulette and poker for great prizes, and a cigar lounge. Cheers!