Intersections: Booze goes underground in Glendale

This is the first of a two-part series.

October 30, 2013|By Liana Aghajanian
  • Liana Aghajanian, columnist. Photographed on Monday, August 26, 2013.
Liana Aghajanian, columnist. Photographed on Monday,… (Roger Wilson / Staff…)

Prohibition in the United States began in January 1920, when the 18th Amendment essentially banned the production, transport and sale of alcohol.

A highly controversial issue, the 13-year-long ban saw the rise of organized crime and corruption and hundreds of thousands of speakeasies, establishments that sold alcohol illegally. It wasn't until 1933 that the ban was repealed by the 21st Amendment, bringing alcohol back to the masses.

During the dry period in the United States, L.A.'s underground tunnels served as secret passageways to basement-based speakeasies, where illegal booze was abundant. The 96-year-old San Antonio Winery, founded in 1917, survived prohibition by producing wine for church services.

Much is known about underground life during Prohibition in L.A. Eighty years after the alcohol ban was repealed, it's interesting to look back at what took place in the booming city of Glendale during the dry spell.

Before Prohibition, Glendale was already a dry town, though the Crescenta Valley was an isolated, ideal location for moonshiners to thrive.


According to a December 1958 article in the Glendale News-Press, the Casa Verdugo Café, on North Brand Boulevard, was located outside the city limits and flourished, serving wine.

When Prohibition was repealed, Dave Burton, owner of Dave Burton's Café, on Broadway — reputed to have had the first cocktail bar in the city — is quoted as saying he took in $17 on the first day, with whiskey selling at 10 cents a shot and beer from 10 to 15 cents.

Speakeasies were common in the area, as were arrests. Several photos from the '20s show Prohibition busts in Glendale.

In one instance, beverage producer Comalt Co. Inc. was raided by the Glendale Police Department in March 1928.

A large amount of bootlegger paraphernalia was found, including caskets and large aluminum cans, which members of the police department proudly posed with in one photo. In another, federal agents are shown dumping 5-gallon cans of illegal whiskey onto Ocean View Boulevard in Montrose, in front of what is now the Glendale Police Department's substation.

Perhaps the most scandalous piece of Glendale's Prohibition history comes in the form of a September 1921 article in the Los Angeles Times, which describes the arrest of four young men, members of the Christian Endeavor convention, who were charged with "having drunk to excess."

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