101 years ago, the prohibition against the legal consumption of alcohol came to Ontario and our Cabbagetown ancestors celebrated (ahem…the day before) by taking advantage of a sale at Haffey’s Liquor Store at Dundas and Berkeley Streets. Here is a description of the event from Cabbagetown Remembered (1984), an excellent book by Cabbagetowner George H. Rust-D’Eye.
Although a popular pastime, the legal drinking of alcoholic beverages came to a temporary halt on 22 March 1916, with the introduction of Prohibition. For the next eighteen years, Ontario was to experience an enforced dry spell. Many can recall the commotion outside of Haffey’s liquor Store (Dundas and Berkeley) the day before the start of Prohibition. Haffey’s, which had been a neighbourhood fixture prior to the temperance movement, was forced to sell all of its stock before the set deadline. As a result D & W Special Whiskey sold for seventy- five cents a quart. All day long people bought this bargain whisky and sat on the steps outside of Haffey’s drinking themselves silly.
During Prohibition many of the Cabbagetown taverns were forced to shut down. Some were able to survive these difficult years by offering other services. The Winchester Hotel opened a laundry as well as a butcher shop to help subsidize its failing business. Many operations were not as fortunate and were forced to close their doors for good. The temperance movement took its toll on the neighbourhood, closing not only the Cabbagetown pubs, but also the numerous distilleries and breweries in the area.
Prohibition Lane that runs south of Amelia Street is named after the period. From the Cabbagetown Preservation Association website:
Prohibition Lane – (named) after the 20th century social movement which prohibited the sale of alcohol without prescription. So oppressive was the movement, that many sought to overcome it through bootlegging practices or by obtaining a doctor’s consent. It is said that in one single day, a Cabbagetown doctor of good repute wrote over 700 prescriptions for the use of alcohol giving them to local residents of all socio-economic ranks. Prohibition ended in 1927.
Here are a couple of pictures of the Shamrock Hotel at the south west corner of Gerrard and River Streets which survived this period, but likely not the redevelopment of Regent Park. The photos are from 1922 and 1947.