It was January 16, 1919, just over 100 years ago, that the 18th Amendment was ratified. Prohibition began 100 years ago. Then on December 5, 1933, the 21st amendment repealed the 18th amendment and Prohibition ended. Or did it really?
Sure, the 21st amendment made it legal to buy and consume alcoholic beverages, but now that 100 years have come and gone, did prohibition really end? When the 18th amendment passed in 1919, there were approximately 669 breweries operating in the U.S. By the end of 2017, that same number had increased to 6,266 (8,863 TTB permitted). Some estimate that there could be almost 7,000 operating breweries by the end of 2018. Granted the current number includes a myriad of different types of breweries, but either way, growth has been incredible when one considers that in 1978 there were only 89 breweries, according to the BA!
With the repeal of the 18th amendment, we saw the creation of the three-tier-system. The purpose of which was to ensure there would be no tied houses between breweries and retailers. And for the most part, the three-tier-system has worked. Now, however, with the advent of brewery-based on-site taprooms; and where legal, brewery-off-site taprooms exist, we have a blurring of the tied-house issue.
While the number of breweries has exploded in recent years, the number of wholesalers has decreased from 4,595 in 1980 to less than 3,000 today. The number of breweries continues to grow while the number of wholesalers continues to retract.
The growth of the breweries can be traced to certain states that, from the end of prohibition, did not create laws which prohibited the start-up of small or craft breweries. The majority of these states were on the east or west coasts. Even with laws favorable to crafts, however, these states still limited consumers’ access to buying beer.
Las Vegas could be considered the only city that truly eliminated prohibition. If a consumer wants a beer in Las Vegas, that beer is available 24/7. One can even walk down the Vegas strip at any time of the day or night with an alcoholic beverage in hand and not be in violation of the law. If Vegas can deal with this environment, other states should also be able to follow the same laws.
All states today restrict, in some form or fashion, the time and day of the week an establishment can open and/or sell alcoholic beverages. In Texas, there is a movement to allow liquor sales on Sunday, a situation which has been unlawful in the past. As with many states, this change in the Texas law is ultimately about increasing revenue to the state more than ensuring the consumer has the freedom to purchase alcohol when desired.
The United States is changing rapidly, just note the spread of legalized cannabis across the country. Pundits believe that we will legalize cannabis within the next three to four years! If that is the case, why cannot prohibition in all forms end?
Prohibition has made nothing but trouble.