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Purple Project For Democracy: What Prohibition Was Like In Los Angeles, And How One Winery Survived (Legally!)




Two bartenders serve patrons at the Malamute Saloon, which was reportedly the first bar to open in Los Angeles after the 1933 repeal of Prohibition.
Two bartenders serve patrons at the Malamute Saloon, which was reportedly the first bar to open in Los Angeles after the 1933 repeal of Prohibition.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

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One-hundred years ago, the United States ratified the short lived 18th Amendment, which prohibited “the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” 

Also known as the “Noble Experiment,” Prohibition was the result of a temperance movement which argued that restricting alcohol would alleviate poverty, strengthen familial bonds and reduce alcohol abuse.

In addition to being unpopular and arguably ineffective, Prohibition saw the rise of organized crime, as well as homicides, burglaries and assaults. In 1933, Prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment. 

Unlike the East Coast which was dominated by the mafia, the booze trade in L.A. was more diffuse. It was a time when the city saw the rise of coastal smuggling, as well as a boom in Tijuana’s popularity. 

Many wineries closed down but some found ways to survive -- for example, San Antonio Winery, which took advantage of a religious exemption in the law to sell altar wines to the Catholic Church in Los Angeles. 

We take you back to the dry days of L.A. -- what it meant for the various communities living here, how it affected crime and how people still got their fix.

Guests:

Richard Foss, culinary historian and book author; he is currently curating an upcoming exhibition at the Autry Museum of the American West called “Cooking Up a New West,” opening in 2021

Steve Riboli, owner of San Antonio Winery, based in Downtown Los Angeles since 1917