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The Raines law, authored by John Raines, was passed on March 23, 1896, by the New York State Legislature. It was nominally a liquor tax, but its intention was to curb the consumption of alcohol by imposing regulations.

Among other provisions, it prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday except in hotels. Most men worked a six-day week, and Sunday was the only full day for drinking at saloons. Under the law, however, hotels were allowed to serve liquor on Sunday, to guests only, if it was served during a meal or in the bedrooms of the hotel.[1] State statutes allowed that any business was considered a hotel if it had 10 rooms for lodging and served sandwiches with its liquor. Saloons quickly found a loophole by adding small furnished bedrooms and applying for a hotel license. Dozens of "Raines law hotels," often located directly above saloons,[2] opened.

As a contemporary source put it, "This offered a premium on the transformation of saloons into hotels with bedrooms and led to unlooked-for evils"[3] (an increase in prostitution), as the rooms in many "Raines law hotels" were used mostly by prostitutes and unmarried couples. (In some cases these rooms may not even have been available at all; in a 1917 novel, the protagonist sees "a Raines Law hotel with awnings, indicating that it was not merely a blind to give a saloon a hotel license but was actually open for business."[4])

Jacob Riis wrote in 1902 of saloon keepers who mocked the law by setting out "brick sandwiches," two pieces of bread with a brick in between, thus fulfilling the legal requirement of serving food. He also writes of altercation in a saloon where a customer attempted to eat a sandwich that the bartender had served just for show; "the police restored the sandwich to the bartender and made no arrests."[5]

Such a shabby bar serves as the 1912 setting of the classic play The Iceman Cometh, by Eugene O'Neill.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reprising Our Niederstein’s Story, Now That It Is A Thing Of The Past". The Times Newsweekly (Ridgewood, NY). 2005-02-10. Archived from the original on 2006-06-25. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  2. ^ Richardson, Dorothy (1905). The Long Day: The Story of a New York Working Girl. The Century Company. , p. 33, "I made my first inventory of that block of Fourteenth Street where I lived. On each corner stood a gaudy saloon, surmounted by a Raines law hotel."
  3. ^ Smith, Ray Burdick (1922). Political and Governmental History of the State of New York. Syracuse Press. p. 25
  4. ^ Phillip, David Graham (1917). Susan Lenox: Her Fall And Rise. New York: D. Appleton And Co. , Project Gutenberg eText #450
  5. ^ Riis, Jacob A. (1902). The Battle with the Slum. Macmillan. , p. 224

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raines_law — Please support Wikipedia.
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250 news items

New York Times

New York Times
Wed, 20 Apr 2016 10:48:45 -0700

For moody Manhattan cocktail lounges like the Raines Law Room, Dear Irving and the Bennett, going phoneless seems to bestow a certain cachet, an aura of under-the-radar cool. “If you call ahead and ask: 'Is it busy? What's going on? How's the wait ...

New York Times

New York Times
Mon, 08 Feb 2016 09:59:04 -0800

The Raines Law Room, a well-upholstered, low-lit underground speakeasy in the Flatiron district, seems engineered for intimacy. Cushioned alcoves can be shielded from prying eyes by floor-to-ceiling curtains. Call buttons, a common fixture in taverns a ...

Weekender Singapore

Weekender Singapore
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 00:02:29 -0700

In your opinion, which are the top 5 speakeasy bars in New York and why? PDT, Employees Only, The Raines Law Room, Attaboy and Angel's Share. All five are excellent with very different concepts and serve amazing cocktails.

Weekender Singapore

Weekender Singapore
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 02:56:15 -0700

Science Centre Singapore has launched the nation's first butterfly vivarium, a 600 square foot indoor butterfly park where guests can get personal with over 500 butterflies. By showcasing this beautiful insect species, they hope that more people ...
Mon, 13 Oct 2014 09:05:53 -0700

Dimly lit cocktail den Raines Law Room expands their speakeasy-style offerings today, opening their second location inside The William hotel on East 39th Street. The Victorian living room motif continues at the new space, which boasts two rooms for ...

Village Voice

Village Voice
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 09:07:30 -0700

Before the 18th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States, other measures limited where alcohol could be consumed, including the Raines Law, which stipulated that boozing be confined to hotels. Nearly ...

Village Voice

Village Voice
Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:02:52 -0700

In this interview, Raines Law Room (48 West 17th Street) head bartender Meaghan Dorman chats about her fondness for rich flavor profiles, Champagne cocktails, and Campari. How do you handle dealer's choice requests? There are a lot of different ...

Village Voice (blog)

Village Voice (blog)
Thu, 18 Oct 2012 10:07:19 -0700

Meaghan Dorman meets a lot of people's parents at Raines Law Room. Sometimes it's because she has already met the girlfriend (who became the wife), the siblings, the business partners. The parents are the next logical step. Other times it's more of a, ...

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