The Thirsty Barber is Malta’s first ever 1920s Prohibition style bar – but what exactly is 1920s Prohibition? Here’s a brief history about how it all began…
The Prohibition was a nationwide ban that dated back to as early as 1907, but did not begin in the United States until January 1920. This was when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect, which was repealed with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment in December 1933.
What was Prohibition?
Prohibition in the United States was a constitutional ban on the importation, transportation, production and sale of any alcoholic beverages. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol, however, were never illegal under federal law, although local laws were stricter in a number of areas, with some states outright banning possession.
Prohibition marked one of the last stages of the Progressive Era, which was a period of widespread social activism and political reform across the U.S. from the 1890s to the 1920s when alcoholism, family violence, and saloon-based corruption were at their peak. Activists, led by pietistic Protestants, wanted to end the liquor and beer trade in order to cure the ill society and weaken the political opposition.
Prohibition supporters, otherwise known as the “dry” crusaders, presented the prohibition as a victory for public morals and health. Anti-prohibitionists, known as the “wets”, criticised the ban as an intrusion of mainly rural Protestant ideals on a central aspect of urban, immigrant, and Catholic life.
The Prohibition led to the birth and rise of the speakeasies, which were hidden sections of establishments that sold alcoholic beverages secretly during the period. Also known as blind pigs or blind tigers, speakeasies could be found anywhere, whether hidden in a store or other business or established underground.
The name “speakeasy” came about when a bartender aptly said that people were supposed to “speak easy” when at a bar – in other words they shouldn’t draw any attention or suspicion towards buying alcoholic beverages by looking nervous or talking quickly. To enter a speakeasy, one must say a secret password to the doorperson to make it clear that they were not really secret agents. Code words for alcohol such as “coffin varnish”, “monkey rum” and “panther sweat” were also created to prevent law officials and the government from finding out about the speakeasies.
Although many believe that the Prohibition failed, it definitely succeeded in cutting the overall alcohol consumption during the period by about half, which then remained low until the 1940s. Speakeasies disappeared after the era was over, and the term is now used to describe some retro style bars.
And that’s where The Thirsty Barber comes into the picture. If you’re a fan of the Roaring Twenties and enjoy a great night of live jazz music and amazing drinks, be sure to head over to The Thirsty Barber in St. Julian’s for a true 1920s atmosphere.