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The Raines law 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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178 news items

New York Daily News

New York Daily News
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 11:22:30 -0700

Night and day make little difference to them, for the light doesn't change much in this grimy place and liquor can be had at any time - for this is a Raines Law hotel where guests may be served at any hour. Harry Hope is a crotchety but warm-hearted ...


Mon, 17 Aug 2015 11:04:03 -0700

The Raines law, passed by the New York State Legislature on March 23, 1896, was meant to curb the consumption of alcohol by imposing regulations. Among them was that alcohol could only be served at hotels on Sundays and only to guests if it was served ...

Tribeca Citizen

Tribeca Citizen
Tue, 25 Aug 2015 02:56:15 -0700

... Tarantino, New York magazine's fall preview has the 411 on The Bennett, the new bar coming to the former Petite Abeille space at 134 W. Broadway (not online yet): “A 600-square-foot space courtesy of the team behind Dear Irving and Raines Law Room.
Lewisboro Ledger
Thu, 27 Aug 2015 07:07:42 -0700

This tavern was “operated according to the Raines Law, then enforced, whereby drinks could be sold provided they were served with a sandwich or food. Apparently, the same old rather 'tired' sandwich was sold and resold to meet the requirements of the law.


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
Mon, 17 Aug 2015 06:47:12 -0700

Celebrating Dorothy Parker's upcoming 122nd birthday, chef Michael Lomonaco has partnered with New York Distilling Company for a week of tributary cocktails. The chef will be aided by ten female mixologists, including Meaghan Dorman of Raines Law ...

West Virginia Record

West Virginia Record
Fri, 07 Aug 2015 07:20:11 -0700

Rhodes is being represented by Tammy Bowles Raines of Tammy Bowles Raines Law Office PLLC; and Stephen P. New and Amanda J. Taylor of the Law Office of Stephen P. New. Brooks and Sarver are represented by Steven M. Bragg of the Law Office of ...
Village Voice
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 09:14:18 -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 ...

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