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Authentic Prohibition-Era Bars in New York

The years between 1920 and 1933 were a dark period in US history. The 18th Amendment banned booze. But some brave New Yorkers decided to take matters into their own hands. A number of establishments, called speakeasies, went to great lengths to hide the bars and sell alcohol illegally. A few of them are still standing today. Stop by for a drink to relive the Prohibition Era. 

McSorley's Old Ale House

Location: 15 E 7th Street, New York, NY 10003 
Proud of being “New York’s oldest continuously operated saloon,” McSorley's Old Ale House has a fascinating history. Since its establishment in 1854, this pub has welcomed presidents, artists, writers, activists, gangsters and the everyday Joes and Janes, while brewing their own Ale. During Prohibition, the brewery continued operating downstairs. Stop by and sip on a pint of their legendary Ale.  

The Back Room

Location: 102 Norfolk Street, New York, NY 10002
Back in the 20s, The Back Room was known as “The Back of Ratner’s.” Gangsters of the likes of Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky used it as their preferred business meetings venue. Today, you still walk through a hidden door used in the Prohibition Era and drink cocktails from teacups, as people did back then. 

Old Town Bar

Location: 45 E 18th Street, New York, NY 10003
Opened in 1892, the Old Town Bar is swarming with history. Most of the décor is original, from the mahogany bar, a marble lunch counter, the tin ceiling and even the urinals! Although everything around it has changed, Old Town Bar remains an authentic part of turn-of-the-century New York. The second story, once known as the “Ladies and Gentlemen’s Dining Room,” serves good bar bites and offer a break from the busy bar downstairs. 

Facade of Pete's Tavern and outdoor seating in New York.Pete's Tavern

Location: 129 E 18th Street, New York, NY 10003
Just down the street from Old Town Bar is Pete's Tavern, another Prohibition-Era gem. It’s been around since 1864, selling their famous 1864 House Ale. Nowadays, you can go for some beers, Italian-American cuisine and a lively atmosphere. Take some time to look at the décor and the photos of the many people, including celebrities, who have walked through its doors. 

White Horse Tavern

Location: 567 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 
White Horse Tavern opened in 1880 at the site of a 17th-century brewery built by Dutch West India Company. Over the centuries, the building has evolved but it always remained a favorite watering hole for all New Yorkers, dock workers and merchants that came and went. After the Prohibition, it became a meeting spot for artists, writers and musicians. 

If you want more information on New York’s best dives and insider spots, follow the Royalton New York blog.