Prohibition ended 80 years ago today. But that didn’t mean a big change in Seattle’s drinking habits – Seattle was notoriously “wet” during Prohibition.
The city had its share of illegal distilleries making moonshine back then, but Seattle bootleggers focused on smuggling liquor, a.k.a. “rum running.” Seattle was an easy target for liquor smuggling due to “wet” politics and demand, our proximity to Canada’s tempting whiskey supply, and the Puget Sound coastline that offered perfect routes and hide-outs for rum runners.
Seattle’s rum running kingpin, Roy Olmstead, began his smuggling career while working as a Seattle police lieutenant. After being busted and fired (but not jailed), he launched his fulltime smuggling empire and became one of the biggest employers in the Puget Sound area in the 1920’s.
At the height of his six-year operation — before he ended up doing hard-time at McNeil Island — Olmstead was delivering 200 cases of Canadian liquor to Seattle every day. (We admit it, we admire his efficient and profitable distribution system…)
Even with Olmstead in prison, Seattle had ready access to liquor. So it stayed comfortably wet up to the day manufacturing and sale of liquor once again legal in the U.S.
Eighty years later, Seattle has more distilleries—all legal—than any other city in the country.
Happy Repeal Day!