Archives Find of the Month: Liquor and Amusements, 1895

amusementsA group of about forty Seattle businessmen petitioned the Mayor and City Council in 1895 to permit amusements (such as concerts, dances, shows, and the like) to be allowed in conjunction with saloons. They wrote that they believed “the best interests of the City of Seattle would be subserved by, and that large revenues could be derived from licensing and allowing amusements under proper restrictions to be carried on and conducted in, and adjoining to places where intoxicating liquors are sold.” Signatures on the petition included prominent local citizens such as banker Jacob Furth and a representative of the Schwabacher Company.

In response to the idea, dozens of temperance-minded citizens signed a separate petition protesting the idea of passing such an ordinance. They stated, “We believe that the passage of such an ordinance would reestablish in our city the disreputable variety theater and dance house against which we earnestly protest. We believe that such places are detrimental to the best interest of our City and do our citizens a thousand times more harm than can be compensated by all the revenues derived therefrom.”

After consideration of the petitions, the Council’s Committee on Police, License and Revenue reported a split decision. The minority believed that the Council should go ahead with the ordinance, claiming that a license system “would keep the places to be regulated under proper control and restraint,” and noted that the petition bore the signatures “of the majority of the best business men of our city.” However, the majority – which reported “adversely” on the idea – won the day, and liquor was kept separate from other entertainments for the time being. Nevertheless, it was not long before the temperance movement lost the battle and Seattle’s saloon quarter once again became a fully operational entertainment district.

 

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