Archives Find of the Month: Repealing the “Cutlet Curfew,” 1965

Home » Archives Find of the Month: Repealing the “Cutlet Curfew,” 1965

MeatPostcardIn 1965, the Seattle Junior Chamber of Commerce led the charge to amend a decades-old law that prohibited the sale of packaged meat after 6:00 pm in Seattle stores. The ordinance stated that a “licensed meat salesman” (i.e., a butcher) must be on hand for customers to make a purchase. Since butchers did not work past 6:00, this meant no meat could be purchased after that time. The Chamber collected over 15,000 signatures from citizens who agreed it was time for the law to be changed, and some media outlets joined the campaign as well.

Clerk File 252480 includes six editorials run by KAYO Radio asking for evening meat sales. One of the spots noted that the existing ordinance was written in 1931 “when refrigeration and other protective devices had not reached the development of today’s modern equipment.” Another editorial noted that it was possible to buy fresh fish and poultry without a butcher being on hand, “and this one fact makes the antiquated meat ordinance ridiculous.” KAYO also noted that in both Spokane and Tacoma, it was possible to buy meat after 6:00 – “Why not Seattle?” In summary, “We must concede that it surely takes a qualified butcher to cut and wrap your fresh meats property, but it completely escapes us why it takes a butcher to sell that packaged meat.”

A cache of postcards addressed to “MEAT, KIRO Radio” shows that KIRO had also been involved in the issue, soliciting opinions from the city’s meat consumers. Messages on the postcards ranged from “Meat Yes” to “I have long resented the ruling that interrupts the sale of needed meats – hours have nothing to do with our needs.” to “I definitely would like to see the ‘cutlet curfew’ abolished.”

The Director of Public Health was somewhat reluctant to change the ordinance, other than to strengthen it to include poultry, rabbit, and fish. He noted that the original law was written because meat from animals with diseases (“tuberculosis, brucellosis, trichinosis…”) was being sold, and because “unscrupulous operators were adulterating the meat…through the use of preservatives, water, flour, ketchup, borax, sulfides, benzoids, tomatoes, blood…” and pointed out that the ordinance had done its job of keeping the meat supply safe. However, he seemed to see the writing on the wall, and recommended that a committee be appointed to write any amendments. The ordinance was indeed amended in April 1965 to allow the sale of prepackaged meats between 6:00 and 9:00 pm.


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