The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition

By Herbert Asbury | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
A New Moral Tone for Broadway

In pre- Volstead times New York City, especially the amusement district of which Broadway was the center, was celebrated throughout the world for its fine hotels, restaurants, and barrooms, and for its lively cabarets and elegant lobster palaces. Prohibition drastically reduced the revenue of these resorts; the barrooms had nothing to sell, and the restaurants and cabarets couldn't operate profitably on the sale of food alone. Most of the best-known eating and drinking places, and many famous hotels, were compelled to close their doors. Some of the latter were old and out-of-date, and probably would have surrendered to the expanding demands of business during the booming 1920s, which brought about a shortage of office space and enormous increases in rentals. The outlawing of liquor, however, was an important factor in their destruction; to many the proceeds of the bar meant the difference between profit and loss.

Within half a dozen years after the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, virtually everything that had made Broadway famous was gone, and the amusement area had been transformed into a raucous jungle of chop-suey restaurants, hot-dog and hamburger shops, garish night clubs, radio and phonograph stores equipped with blaring loud-speakers, cheap haber-

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