Evolution of the American Bar

American bars have a long history of supporting and helping to define social movements. In the early centuries, bars and taverns were exclusive to male clients. Women often worked in taverns as servers and barmaids, as these drinking establishments usually doubled as restaurants and grocery stores, but women never were customers. This all changed, ironically enough, during Prohibition.

The rise of the speakeasy, those hidden drinking holes that were officially illegal, made many previously social taboos acceptable. Women began showing up at speakeasies and became accepted as part of the scene. Once Prohibition was repealed, the social change remained with the re-opened bars.

Similarly, the gay rights movement got started at the Stonewall Inn in the 1960s. This popular drinking spot for LGBT youth was one of the few public places that allowed gay patrons openly, as they were generally considered “unruly” under the social laws of the time. A famous riot took place here after police tried to raid the Stonewall, which resulted in a shift in social consciousness towards gay rights.


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