Key Dates - K-Bar

Page history last edited by peterga 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Key dates in the history of bars/saloons/taverns in Seattle, Washington state, and the U.S.


1791 Mar 3 - Federal Excise Tax  Act, leading to the Whiskey Rebellion (Rebellion ends 1794, Act terminated 1817)

1802 - U.S. congress passes first of many laws to prohibit sales of alcohol to native Americans

1822 - The first "saloon" was established at Brown's Hole, Wyoming, to serve fur trappers (wikipedia)

1830s - Temperance movements begin advocating abstinence from alcohol

1840s - "Saloon" begins to replace "Tavern," "Alehouse," and "Taproom" - first connotes aristocracy, but by end of the century connotes vice and drunkeness (SOW, SRMMF) ("ordinaries" in the early colonial years)

1850s - Typical western saloon with false front, swinging doors, and carved bar begins to appear (SOW, BSS)

    Boomed 1880s to early 1890s, slowed in 1910s, ended in 1920 (BSS) 

1855 - 13 states have enacted prohibition legislation

1855 - Washington state prohibition referendum defeated (564 votes for, and 650 against)

1855 Jan 25 - Washington prohibition against selling liquor to native Americans enacted

1860 - Prohibition against selling liquor to "Kanakas" (Hawaiian Islanders) enacted (Anna Sloan Walker)

1877 Nov 9 - First Washington law prohibiting sale to minors passed (Anna Sloan Walker) 

1878 - 1912 - Brunswick-Balke-Collender manufactured back bars (truewest)

1879  Nov 14 - State legislators prohibit the sale of liquor within a mile of the Northern Pacific Railroad during its construction in Spokane, Stevens, and Whitman counties. 

1881 - First state prohibition measure (Kansas, repealed only 1948

1882 - Edward S. Stokes purchases Adolphe Bourguereau's "The Nymphs and Satyr," and installs it in his Hoffman House bar in New York, starting the nude painting "Saturday Night" art trend in saloons (BSS p28)

1884 - Brunswick merges with another rival to become “The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company,” the largest billiard equipment operation in the world. The product line expands to include elaborate and ornate front and back bars. 

1885 March 19 - the Washington State Legislature unanimously passes a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on the University of Washington campus in Seattle and within two miles of the campus, with the exception of the Madison Park business district

1886 - Washington Territorial Legislature passes a local option law, allowing residents of a town or precinct to petition for elections on the licensing of liquor sales within their community. This was overturned by territorial supreme court in 1888, and reinstalled in 1889.

1889 Oct 1 - Voters ratify the Washington territory constitution, rejecting Prohibition (and rejecting woman suffrage).  The vote on Prohibition was 19,546 for, and 31,487 against.  

1890s - Refrigerated rail cars and invention of the "crown" bottle cap allow brewers to broadly distribute their product, allowing eastern brewers to compete with local, and stimulating saloon growth

1892 - Crown bottle caps introduced

1893 First cigarette prohibition enacted in Washington state (struck down by federal courts in July 1894)

1893-1907 - Columbia City a dry town (i.e. from date of incorporation to annexation by Seattle)

1906 March 19 - Newly elected Seattle mayor William Moore warns saloons that he will close them unless curtains and doors are removed from boxes and they are visible from the bar. (Spokesman Review 3/23/1906)

1906 Sep 28 - Spokane Press reports that "A new list of the city's saloons and wholesale liquor houses just made out by the city comptroller's office shows a total of 1298 saloons In the city, of which 19 are wholesale establishments."

1907 April 6 - Ballard annexed by Seattle (Seattle Annexation Map)  

1907 May 3 - Columbia City annexed

1907 Feb 17 - Effective date of Seattle law requiring saloons being open on Sundays, had to close by 1am (Seattlelites went to Ballard until annexation); Also made "boxes" illegal in bars and restaurants, as well as slot machines. Pullman Herald reports largest numbers of arrests in years.

1907 - Ballard saloon district limited saloons to 50' either side of Ballard Ave between 17th and Market (in effect until prohibition)

1907 - Second cigarette prohibition passed in Washington state

1909, March - Washington state "Screen Law" - interiors of saloons must be visible from the street, could not obstruct view of what was going on by shades, etc. (part of a bill outlawing abortion, sodomy, public nudity (including swimming in lakes), and extramarital sex.

1909 - "Sabbath Breaking" law (Chapter 249, Section 242, Laws of 1909) prohibits most businesses, including saloons and restaurants, from operating on Sundays. (historylink)

1909 - "Local Option" passed - Any city of 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th class and any county (for unincorporated areas) could rule to ban saloons (importing for personal use, manufacturing still allowed)

1909 - Illegal (a felony) to sell alcohol to anyone who was at least 1/8th Indian

1909 - 288 saloons closed due to location option prohibitions

1909 - Cigarette prohibition strengthened banning the possession as well as the sale and manufacture of cigarettes and cigarette paper

1910 March 29 - Georgetown annexed

1910 - 8 counties completely dry (Island, Skagit, Klickitat, Grant, Douglas, Okanagan, Garfield, Columbia) and 7 others dry outside of cities (in general, cities pro-wet, rural areas pro-dry)

1910 - Everett, Bellingham vote dry. Clarence Darrow and Billy Sunday brought into Everett for local option vote (TDY p96)

1911 - Jan 1 - Bellingham and Everett go dry (Everett resumes saloons Jan 1 1913) - 40 saloons on Hewitt in 1910; subsequent budget crisis solved by turning off street lights and letting horse manure stack up in roads, until property tax passed (TDY p94); 

1911 - Cigarette prohibition ended 

1912 - Approximately 42% of Washingtonians lived in dry areas (TDY p106)

1914 Nov 3 - Initiative 3, Prohibition, approved in Washington state, to take effect Jan 1 1916

1916 Jan 1 - Prohibition in effect in Washington State (HistoryLink.org)

  • Seattle becomes the largest dry city in the U.S.  (Gettysburg Compiler 1/8/1916)
  • Also on this date: Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Arkansas and Iowa; 19 dry states by end of 1916, 3/4 of population dry)
  • Seattle had 260 saloons and 300,000 people at the time (Aberdeen Herald 3/3/1916)
  • 138 saloons in Tacoma and 2100 in NW (Tacoma Times 12/31/1915)
  • 1400 saloons and other establishments in Washington state close  (Gettysburg Compiler 1/8/1916)
  • 65 drug stores open in Seattle in first quarter of 1916 due to availability of medicinal liquor 
  • Illegal to advertise by newspaper, periodical, or letter
  • May be purchased from mail-order dealer outside of the state 
  • When federal prohibition took effect, Washington was one of 33 states (of the then 48) with state-wide prohibition laws (map)
  • Druggist may keep unlimited stock on hand but must maintain records of all purchasers and prescribing physicians 
  • 150 saloons closed in Idaho under "the most drastic prohibition law enacted by any state." 

1916 3am - First arrests for selling beer - William Comoff and Mike Savtson, proprietors of saloon on 1st Ave S. (Spokane Daily Chronicle 1/1/1916)

1917-1921 - Prohibition in British Columbia

1917 Feb 19 - Washington state governor Ernest Lister signs "bone dry law," prohibiting permits to import liquor from out of state for personal use, to take effect in 90 days (TDY p138)

1917 March - U.S. Congress amends the Post Office Appropriations bill to forbid interstate shipment of liquor into any state which had a dry law (whether or not the state had a permit law) (TDY p139)

1917-1920 - Federal war-time prohibition on alcohol (lasts until the 18th Amendment because there was no peace agreement signed with Germany, and thus technically, the U.S. still at war)

  • 1917 Sep 8 - Food Control Bill in effect, banning used of foodstuff to distill liquor ending manufacture of hard booze (TDY p140) and closing all distilleries in the country.
  • 1917 Dec 8 - Beer with alcohol > 2.5% prohibited, and use of foodstuffs limited (TDY p140
  • 1919 July - War Prohibition Act enforced, prohibits manufacture of beer and wine until the end of demobilization 

1917 Dec 22 - Congress submits to the states a resolution to amend the Constitution to prohibit the manufacture, sale or transportation of "intoxicating liquors"

1918 Jan 1 - Alaskan prohibition takes effect

1918 - Great flu epidemic leads to removal of spittoons from bars, most gone by end of the WWII scrap collection.

1918-1920 - Prohibition in Canada

1919 Jan 16 - 18th Amendment ratified; to be proclaimed in 1 year

1919 Oct 28 - National Prohibition Act, AKA the Volstead Act, enacted by Congress, over Woodrow Willson's veto. This defined language of the Amendment and set the starting date for the earliest date for Jan 17 1920, the earliest date allowed by the Amendment. (It came as a surprise to both brewers and the general public that "intoxicating liquors" included beer and wine, which were generally not included in state and local prohibitions - wikipedia)  Anything over 0.5% ABV was prohibited.

1920 Jan 17 - 18th Amendment in effect, banning the production, transport, and sale of alcohol (though not the consumption or private possession); 225,000 remaining saloons close. (BSS)

1920 - Liquor could no longer be sold by drug stores (ending explosion of "1916 drug stores" after prohibition)

1932 Nov - Washington passes Initiative 62, repealing state liquor prohibitions. In the time between this and the repeal of federal prohibition and establishment of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, over 300 "parlors" server liquor in downtown Seattle (TDY p241)

1933 Mar 22 - FDR signs the Beer and Wine Revenue Act (AKA Cullen-Harrison_Act) - levies a federal tax on all alcoholic beverages to raise revenue for the federal government and gives individual states the option to further regulate the sale and distribution of beer and wine. This allows beer and wine of 3.2% (by weight, 4% ABV) or lower (as most beers were in the pre-prohibition era) to be manufactured and sold where local laws do not prohibit it.  (Seattle Times 4/5 4/5 4/7 4/7 4/9 4/9)

1933 Apr 7 - For Washington state and about 61% of Americans, beer taps open as Beer and Wine Revenue Act takes effect.  Celebrated as National Beer Day. "... in those states that chose not to maintain Prohibition on a state-wide basis, men and women began to gather outside bars and breweries early in the morning of that day, anxious to taste their first (legal) beer since January 1920. Celebrations erupted spontaneously in cities and towns across the land and lasted long into the night." In Washington all beer sells out quickly and patrons await imminent train cars from the midwest and California. Beer parlors in WA must be closed Sundays and 1-6am other days. (Dark Realities: America's Great DepressionBy Wyn Derbyshire)

1933 Oct 3 - Washington state ratifies the 21st Amendment (25th state to do so)

1933 Dec 5 - 21st Amendment ratified - Prohibition ended

1933 Dec 15 - 21st Amendment became officially effective, though people started drinking openly before that date

1934 Jan 23 - Washington state passes Steele Act, (text) establishing Washington State Liquor Control Board and allowing individual cities and counties to remain dry, confining liquor bottle sales to state stores, and by-the-glass to private clubs; associated legislation would prohibit use of the terms "bar," "barroom," or "saloon" (although instances of "bar" can be found at the time)

1935 - Washington wines (not wines from other states) could be sold by private distributors

1940 - Washington state initiative makes liquor by the glass legal 

1948 - Washington voters defeat Initiative 13, which would have prevented bars and restaurants from selling beer or wine,

          and made them available only from state-owned liquor stores.  (Washingtonpolicy.org)

1948 March - Washington state initiative 171 allows hotels, restaurants, trains, boats and clubs (but not taverns) to sell liquor by the glass (Class H licenses), and establish cocktail lounges

          To sell liquor an establishment had to make 70% of its revenues from food (Later 1948 60%, 1954 50%, 1971 40%)

235 establishments in Washington begin legally serving

women not served except when seated at tables

1950 - Mustache rags (for wiping beer froth off mustaches) largely gone from bars

1953 - Dec 12 - First law against public drinking passed in Chicago (huffpo)

1954 - Area north of 85th St. annexed

1957 Sep 21 - Richard Berry plays Louie Louie at Eagles Auditorium, kicking off its massive popularity in

Seattle and its role in boosting rock and roll in the area

1960 - Washington voters defeat Initiative 205, which would have allowed taverns to sell hard liquor (Washingtonpolicy.org)

1962 - Washington voters defeat Initiative 261, which would have eliminated state liquor stores and let private business retail it

1964 - Ban against selling alcohol on Sunday in Washington state repealed

1965 - Lettered phone number system (e.g. MElrose 3-4220, EL-0020) begins to be phased out for current North American Numbering Plan

1966 - Measure 229 passed by 65.8% of voters, repeals blue laws - bars no longer must be closed on Sundays (Saturday at midnight), but can open

          only after church at 2pm and must close by 10pm (supported by Jehovah's Witnesses, despite their stance against all drinking, due to favoritism for Sundays)

1966 - Mississippi, last dry state, becomes wet

1967 August 20 - Sunday sales began of packaged beer and all by-the-drink liquor. Packaged wine and “hard” liquor could be sold only by state-owned liquor stores, which remained closed on Sundays because a separate statute (R.C.W. 66.16.080) controlled that issue. (historylink)

1969 - Women allowed to sit at a bar in Washington state; all people allowed to stand while drinking

1969 July 1 - California Wine Bill - Out-of-state wines to be marketed on an equal basis with Washington-produced wines.  Before the Act, only the Board could import out-of-state wines, and grocers had to buy them from the Board at retail prices.

1972 Dec - Washington State Liquor Board orders 3-Fingered Jacks to drop "saloon" (Spokane Daily Chronicle, 12/11/1972)

1973 Nov 6 - Washington voters narrowly declined to reduce the state's drinking age from 21 to 19. The vote was 495,624 for, 510,491 against. 

1976 - Liquor Control Board drops all Sunday limitations on sales of liquor

1976 June 26, - Oliver's Lounge opens in the Mayflower Park Hotel in downtown Seattle. Taking advantage of a change in regulations, Oliver's is the city's first "daylight bar," meaning passersby can look in from the street and see bartenders mixing and serving cocktails. (Previously it was illegal for hard liquor to be served in view of the street.)  (historylink

1979 Feb 1 - Federal law makes home brewing legal (though individual states may restrict)

1979 Aug 16 - Until this date, bars not allowed to use the term "Saloon" in their names in Washington state (Lewiston Daily Sun, 8/23/1979) (Seattle Times 7/4/1979)

1982 - Brewpubs become legal in Washington state

1995 - State liquor board relaxes the food reporting requirements and allows ropes, stanchions and planters to separate the bar and restaurant areas, rather than walls. Subsequently many taverns convert to Class H licenses and become bar and grills, selling hard liquor and allowing minors except at the bar area. "The state caps the total number of Class H licenses at one per 1,500 population. As of Nov. 1, 983 licenses were still available. Washington has 1,370 taverns."

1996 - Washington makes trainer of alcohol servers (mostly on over-serving) mandatory

2000 April - State liquor board relaxes on food equipment needed to sell spirits. It is still required to offer 4 (later 8) complete meals (sandwiches, popcorn, peanuts, fries did not count), but bars are only required to have the equipment needed to prepare their 4 meals. (The Stranger 3/14/2002)

2003 - Strong beer allowed to be distributed by private distributors and to be sold by grocery stores, beer/wine specialty shops, beer/wine restaurants, beer/wine private clubs, and taverns ("strong beer" is defined in law as a malt beverage containing more than 8% alcohol by weight or approximately 10% by volume). Previously, strong beer could only be sold to-go in liquor stores. 

2005 July 24 - 35 state liquor stores allowed to start selling on Sundays, marking the end of prohibition era liquor regulations

2007 April 11 - Former police officer Deana F. Jarrett, of Woodinville, registered a 0.47 percent blood-alcohol reading after striking two cars, the highest blood-alcohol reading ever recorded by a Washington state driver (0.4 to 0.5 can be fatal to people who are not alcoholics)

2011 Nov 8 - Voters pass Initiative 1183, allowing Washington state grocery stores to sell liquor and closing state liquor stores

2012 Jun 1 - Initiative 1183 takes effect

2015 Nov 3 - Fircrest WA votes to allow alcohol by the glass, ending the last dry community on the west coast (wikipedia

2018 - At behest of Chehalis tribe and "Talking Cedar" gastropub and distillery, 1834 federal law prohibiting distilleries on tribal land is repealed (Eater

2020 Mar 16 - All Washington state bars and restaurants must be closed due to Coronavirus pandemic

2020 May 6 - Washington state legalizes to-go cocktails (joining California and Idaho) (WALCB






Harlan Andrijeski notes that when he lived in Washington state in 1951-53, law prevented you from moving your own drink from the bar to a table.


Helpful Dates for Identifying Age

1958, March 16 - Seattle-metro area telephone numbers changed from 2 letters + 4 digits to 2 letters + 5 digits (codes

1973 - Matchbook strikers moved to back of matchbooks

1958-early 70s - Gradual change to all digits


SeattleMet's Key Dates

1948: Washington allows the sale of hard liquor by the drink in establishments that serve full meals—the primordial ooze from whence our expectation of food and cocktails crawled. 

1996: Martinis are all the rage, and Tini Bigs brings its ginormous versions and a sense of crafty cocktail adventure to a city otherwise enthralled with microbrews. 

2002: Ben Dougherty and Kacy Fitch take over Zig Zag Cafe, building a brilliant cocktail program alongside upscale food and luring superstar Murray Stenson from Il Bistro. Matt Janke consults on the menu, but a Seattle Times restaurant review allows that the duo “can’t decide if they’re running a restaurant or a lounge.” And “no one is interested much in dinner.”

2003: The seminal Sambar opens, giving Seattle its first taste of a craft cocktail bar where the food is also top notch. 

2003: Lark kicks off Seattle’s love of small plate dining, a style that translates easily to bars. 

2005: One year after the Spotted Pig opens in New York, Black Bottle brings the gastropub concept of great booze and high-end eats to Seattle. (See also: Quinn’s, Spur.)

2007: Txori opens in Belltown, uniting the Basque tapas that made Harvest Vine’s name with happy hour and cocktails. The ensuing small plate revival includes bars like Pintxo and Ocho.

2009: Tavern Law, Bathtub Gin, and Knee High Stocking Company open, ushering in the faux-speakeasy era. (It’s still going strong.) 

2010: Renee Erickson opens the Walrus and the Carpenter, a bar-meets-restaurant that food writers across the nation cannot stop raving about—including us.




1879, July 26 - fire destroys 20 buildings in downtown Seattle (renamed Pioneer Square)

1882, April 2 - fire razes blocks of downtown Dayton, WA

1885, May 20 - An arsonist lights a fire that destroys most of the business district of the town of Whatcom (Bellingham)

1885, Sep 6 - fire destroys the business block and 20 of 21 buildings in Port Townsend, WA

1888, May 13 - fire destroys 73 buildings and seven blocks of downtown Goldendale, WA

1888, June 6 - Most of Ritzville WA's business district burns to the ground

1888 - Roslyn experienced a major fire that destroyed most of its commercial district

1889, April 18 - fire devastates Cheney, WA

1889, June 3 - Fire destroys half the business district in Republic

1889, June 6 - The Great Seattle Fire destroys 29 square blocks of downtown Seattle

1889, July 4 Great Ellensburg Fire, 200 homes, 10 business blocks destroyed

1889, Aug 4 - Great Spokane Fire destroyed 32 square blocks, virtually the entire downtown

1890, Sep 17 - Great Puyallup fire, all but 2 of the buildings between Stewart St. and railroad destroyed

1892 - Great Stanwood Fire

1892 Aug 30 - Conconully destroyed by fire, 34 buildings destroyed

1892 - Fire destroys half the business district of Oakesdale, WA

1893, May 8 - First of the great fires in Northport

1894 - Most downtown Port Orchard (then Sydney) businesses destroyed by fire on Bay Street

1900, July 18 - Fire destroys nearly half of the business district of downtown Pomeroy, WA

1901 - Fire destroys several city blocks of Wilbur

1901, Sep 18 - Fire destroys 8 businesses and 1 residence in Monroe, WA

1903, Oct 16 - Fire destroys 140 buildings in the center of Aberdeen, WA

1907 - Fire started in a barber shop attic and burned all of Stella, WA

1910 - Wilkeson Fire destroys downtown area

1910, March 13 - Fire destroys nearly the entire downtown section of Ephrata, WA

1910, June 10 - Belltown fire destroyed the entire block bordered by Railroad and Elliott avenues and Battery and Wall streets. It also gutted the four-story brick Glenorchy Hotel on Western Avenue north of Wall, four apartment houses, two restaurants, a hardware store, and much else including more than a dozen residences.

1911 - A major fire destroys 35 businesses in Snohomish (another major fire in 1893)

1911 - Catastrophic fire in Lacrosse, WA (again in 1913)

1913 - Fire destroys all but 6 structures of the original location of Entiat, the city is subsequently relocated 

1914, Aug 27 - Fire destroys downtown Shelton, WA

1917, July 13 - Fire nearly wipes out Quincy, WA

1918 - Fire consumes 30 square blocks of Cle Elum from downtown eastward, leave 1,500 people homeless

1921 - Two large fires destroyed most the buildings along Main St. in Concrete, WA by 1921

1921 - Stella, WA 2nd great fire

1922 - Fire started in chick incubator in a feed store on Pacific Street (now Park Avenue) burns down most of Spanaway's business district

1924, July 24 - Fire destroys 23 buildings in the downtown business district, and two homes in Twisp, WA

1925, June 26 - fire destroys most of the mill town of Monohon, WA

1925 and 1928 - Fires destroy nearly the entire town of Harrah, WA

1928, Aug 18 - fire sweeps through the coal mining town of Ronald in Kittitas County, destroying 32 houses, several businesses, and leaving 136 persons homeless


1845 April 10 - A third of Pittsburgh was consumed by fire leaving thousands homeless and costing millions of dollars in damages



Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Dates


1888 - The Brooks High License Act limits alcohol sales with high-cost licensing and restricted the hours of operation for bars. Licenses cost between $200 and $500 and there were $50 fines for operating without a license or selling liquor on Sundays.

1919, Feb 25 - State-wide prohibition implemented in Pennsylvania   

1933 - Gov. Gifford Pinchot, a vociferous teetotaler, convened a special session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to “discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible."  (Philadelphia Inquirer)

1941-1967 - Female bartenders banned in Pennsylvania (PD)

1950s-1960s - Jazz and creative cocktails continued in the Hill District, e.g. Birdie's Hurricane (PD)

2016 - Gov. Tom Wolf signed Acts 39 and 166 into law. Act 39 eliminated restrictions on Sunday hours of beer, wine and liquor sales; Act 166 












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