Back in 1933 Cecil County was in the grips of the darkest days of the Great Depression. In those uncertain times, as a new president rushed to launch programs to alleviate unemployment, hunger, foreclosures, and the collapse of banks, there was one bright spot.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided it was time to bring about the end of prohibition, the “noble experiment” that banned the sale of alcoholic beverages. That April the death knell of prohibition sounded as beer sales became legal for the first time in some 13 years. In December prohibition completely passed away as the 21st amendment was ratified and all types of alcohol sales became legal. “I think this would be a good time for a beer,” he remarked as he signed the amendment to the Volstead Act, which allowed bartenders to push suds across the bar to eager customers.
In Maryland the legislature took up the business of creating regulations for dispensing the golden suds, working late into the night during 10 days of a special session. After attaching over 300 amendments to the bill, it sailed through both houses. Many people celebrated as the foaming beverages flowed freely on April 14th in Cecil.
The Cecil County Commissioners were named as the Liquor Control Board. When their clerk opened the office for business the day after beening handed this responsibility, the local officials had their hands full considering applications. Businesses that closed doors or reoriented hospitality services to tea and coffee rooms after Congress proclaimed the dry-era, were anxious to pick up where they left off. The cost of a license ranged from about $25 to $60 depending on the classification.
In days 49 people appeared before the liquor control board. Three were held up because of complaints, but in most dispensaries patrons celebrated. In Rising Sun, Thomas Riale’s pool room and Martin Keplinger’s Rising Sun Hotel opened to serve customers. Along the heavily traveled Route 1, leading to the Susquehanna River, the Blue and White Lunch Room, the Lafayette Inn, and Dicks Place joined in too. Others outlets were scattered around the county.
With many people raising a cold one to Roosevelt’s effort to alleviate the suffering, the people had another reason to celebrate in December. At the end of that miserable, miserable year, the passage of the 21st amendment to the Constitution brought an end to prohibition.
But on a spring in Cecil County legal beer had returned. Soon harder liquors would be available.