Thursday, October 6, 2011

6 October 1891: Dispensary Rules Published

On this day in 1891, the Weekly Banner-Watchman published the rules for the new Athens Dispensary, which had opened earlier in the week. It also reprinted their daily paper story about the opening with the title "Presto, Change!"

The Athens Dispensary was the city's solution to the alcohol problem in Clarke County. Athens had tried prohibition, only to find that crime and unruly behavior were as much a problem as ever, and corrupted black market liquor was causing health issues and deaths. The Dispensary would both guarantee that only high quality liquor was sold within the county and bring in much needed revenue.  

The law establishing the Athens Dispensary was passed by the Georgia legislature the previous August. By mid-September, Dispensary commissioners were doing "quality testing" for products to be sold by the city, with tests run by UGA Chemistry Department head,  Dr. H. C. White. The Dispensary doors opened on September 29. 1891, at 7 o'clock in the morning. In the first few days, the Dispensary averaged between $200-300 in sales per day, but the level of intake was not expected to keep at the pace of newly available alcohol.

Once Athens was in the alcohol business, fines for selling unauthorized alcohol increased dramatically. Disorderly conduct, including keeping a lewd house, may bring a fine of $5-50 in the Mayor's Court, but those arrested as blind tigers faced fines in the hundreds of dollars, or no fine option at all, just labor at 50 cents per day installing the city's new paved streets, and sewer and water systems, with materials purchased with funds from the Dispensary. 

The Athens Dispensary went out of business on New Year's Eve, 1907, the day before state-wide prohibition went into effect. They had record sales that day, and several frequent disorderly conduct prisoners were given prison sentences that lasted until the Dispensary's 7pm closing time. Georgia would not repeal prohibition until 1935, and even now, some counties within the state remain "dry."

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