On April 18, 1906, a great tragedy befell Santa Rosa: All saloons closed for about a month. There was also that earthquake thing, too.
This was a hard-drinking town in the early 20th Century, with nearly three dozen saloons packed into its small downtown; you were never more than a few doors away from a glass of beer or a shot of whisky, particularly if you were staggering along 4th Street.
(RIGHT: Approximate locations of saloons in 1906 projected on a map of modern-day Santa Rosa. Data based on list of applications for liquor license renewals that appeared in the Press Democrat, Dec. 13, 1906)
Like every other business in town, the saloon trade was disrupted by the earthquake. Some of Santa Rosa’s most famous drinking holes aren’t found on this map; the Occidental Bar was gone until its namesake hotel was again standing, and the Oberon wouldn’t reopen until the Shea Building was rebuilt. Also not listed here is the infamous “Call No. 2;” that joint wasn’t even allowed to apply for a license renewal following a standing-room-only public hearing where complaints were aired about noise and rowdiness. But there are 33 places on this map, and the 1908 city directory lists thirty bars at that time, so although names and locations slightly drift, this is still a fair representation of the Santa Rosa saloon scene in that era.
About a dozen saloons each were clustered around the train station and court house square. The places closer to the court house seemed to appeal to men from the town’s business class and gamblers visiting Santa Rosa for the horse races (although the Oberon, Santa Rosa’s pre-quake gambling HQ was in limbo, owners Brown & Gnesa had two interim saloons shown on this map). The downtown saloons consistently enjoyed good press; when Jake Luppold reopened his “New” Senate Saloon with a big feed, the Republican gushed that “Luppold’s reputation for hospitality is second to none…Luppold’s friends are legion, and they called and partook of the viands with a relish.”
By contrast, the Call and other places down by the train tracks – which never, ever, advertised in the papers – were never, ever, mentioned kindly in the papers. During the Jan. 2 1907 City Council meeting where saloon license renewals were discussed, two of the three applications being questioned were part of the cluster near the tracks, and the police chief reported that the owner of one saloon was frequently intoxicated and “used vile language [that] had driven ladies from the adjoining restaurant.” Besides running a “disorderly house,” it was also alleged that he frequently beat his wife. There was no mention at all why the single downtown saloon’s license application was denied.
Compare also the way police treated code violations: The proprietor of the downtown Germania was slapped on the wrist when an officer caught him drawing a beer after the earthquake curfew. The same officer Boyce later arrested the proprietor of a restaurant on lower 4th Street who violated the law by serving a plate of crackers as a “meal” to drinking men (read update here).
Saloon hours were restricted in the wake of the quake, but details are unclear. It’s presumed that they were ordered closed immediately after the disaster just as they were in San Francisco, but there’s no mention in the contemporary newspapers. We likewise don’t know when they were allowed to reopen for limited daytime hours after signing an agreement to obey curfews (and probably other rules), but it was presumably about a month later. The thread picks up again in mid-June, as saloonkeepers were bridling under the restrictions that they could only be open from 8AM to 6PM. The City Council was inclined to return their hours to the pre-earthquake 5AM-Midnight, but the mayor forced through a rule that the new hours would be 6AM-8PM.
At the “Call No. 2” hearing, by the way, it came out that one of the witnesses against the place had repeatedly tried to bring a “lady” – quotes theirs, presumably to suggest that she was a prostitute – into the saloon, but wasn’t allowed entry. Women were reportedly seen around the saloon (although witnesses couldn’t be sure that they weren’t seeing the housekeeper, who lived there). Another witness claimed that some time ago “two negroes came out of the saloon and addressed remarks to her.” Apparently these vague allegations were serious enough to lose your business, if it happened to be a bar on the wrong side of the tracks.
City Council Meeting
Proprietor Pflugi, of the Germania Hotel, was summoned to appear before the council, it having been charged that he had kept his bar open after 6 o’clock in the evening. He stated that his bar had to do triple duty, bar, office, and sitting room, and that a portion of his boarders had to sit there Thursday night out of the rain, while the others ate their supper. He said he had not sold any liquor. Police officer Boyes said he saw a glass of beer drawn at 8 o’clock and carried out of the room. This glass, the proprietor claimed, was for the cook, who “would not work without his beer.” Mr. Pflugi was allowed to go with an admonition. After the storm the bar must close.
Chief of Police Rushmore said other saloon men wanted to make their saloons into “offices.” The matter was discussed and it was stated plainly that any liquor selling after 6 o’clock at night will result in the revocation of the license.
In the opinion of councilmen the saloon men ought to feel satisfied that they had been allowed to open their places at all at this time and should be very careful to obey the agreement they had signed.
– Press Democrat, May 26, 1906
SALOON MEN CAME NEAR WINNING OUT
The saloon men of Santa Rosa presented a petition to the city council Tuesday evening, asking that they be permitted to return to the opening and closing hours which prevailed before April 18. At present they open at 8 in the morning and close at 6 in the evening, and under the former regime they opened at 5 and closed at midnight.
Councilman Donahue moved that the petition be granted, saying he saw no reason why a return to the old regime should be longer delayed. He stated that most of the money spent in saloons was spent after 6 o’clock in the evening, at which time the saloons were now forced to close…
Mayor Overton declared he believed it a good idea to keep the saloons closed, and give the people an opportunity to save the money instead of spending it for booze. Councilmen Johnston and Reynolds entertained similar views, and voted against the proposed opening until midnight. Councilman Wallace had not arrived at the meeting, and had no chance to vote.
When the motion was about to be declared as carried, it was learned that the opening of the saloons after the hours now prescribed would have to be done by resolution. The matter was dropped for the time being.
– Santa Rosa Republican, June 20, 1906
SALOONS CAN OPEN NOW FROM 6 A. M. TO 8 P. M.
The saloons of Santa Rosa open at 6 o’clock this morning and will remain open until 8 o’clock tonight. This will be the rule until further notice, a resolution prescribing these hours having been carried at last night’s Council meeting. The matter was introduced by the reading of the following communication from Mayor Overton:
Santa Rosa, Cal., July 3–To the City Council of the City of Santa Rosa, Gentlemen:
After careful consideration of the resolution passed by your honorable body at your last meeting allowing the opening and closing of saloons same hours as before April 18th, I have to withhold my approval of the resolution.
I deem it for the best interests of the people of Santa Rosa and for the best interests of men engaged in the liquor business that they close their places of business at reasonable hours as all other business men do. The present hours from 8 to 6 o’clock I regard as being too stringent and would recommend the adoption of the same hours to prevail in San Francisco when the saloons open there, to wit, from 6 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock in the evening. Respectfully submitted, J. P. Overton, Mayor of the City of Santa Rosa
When it came to adopting the Mayor’s suggestion the vote stood as follows: [ 3 Ayes, 3 Noes ], Mayor Overton gave the casting vote in favor of the amendment.
– Press Democrat, July 4, 1906
LUPPOLD ENTERTAINS HOST OF FRIENDS
Jake Luppold celebrated the opening of the “New Senate Saloon” Sunday in a manner worthy of his past efforts at entertaining his friends. Mr. Luppold’s reputation for hospitality is second to none, and on Sunday he exceeded his former substantial menus. The piece de resistance was chicken, and of these sixty-four were roasted. Each was stuffed and those who partook of the feast were served generously. To this were added eight hogs’ heads, a number of different salads, relishes and all the concomitants that go to make a magnificent spread. Mr. Luppold’s friends are legion, and they called and partook of the viands with a relish. Experienced caterers were on hand to serve the feast, and all had an enjoyable time. Mr. Luppold expects to duplicate the feast on Thanksgiving day, that being an established annual custom with him.
– Santa Rosa Republican, July 23, 1906
SUPERVISORS HEAR EVIDENCE
Petition to Revoke License of Alleged Disorderly Saloon on West Third Street
The “Standing Room Only” sign could have been out at Supervisor’s hall on Thursday afternoon. The seating capacity of the room was taxed to its utmost. The occasion was the hearing of the petition to revoke the liquor license held by George M. Simpson for the “Call No. 2 Saloon,” on West Third Street.
It was alleged that Simpson had kept a disorderly house, that unseemly noise and disturbance was created there and there were other charges.
Among the witnesses called were [13 names] and others.
After listening to the testimony, the petition to revoke the license was dismissed. It is only a few more days until all saloon keepers will have to present new petitions, as licenses have to be renewed at the first of the year.
After dismissing the petition, the Supervisors proceeded to hear evidence on the revocation of the license under which the saloon is run, and when all the witnesses were heard the matter was taken under advisement. The reason for the dismissal of the petition was owing to the fact that it was shown that Simpson does not personally hold the license.
One of the ladies called testified that she had once been accosted by intoxicated men outside the saloon. Another testified as to the noise from the place. Other witnesses testified as to the general reputation of the saloon.
Simpson denied that he had kept a disorderly house despite the fact that others had testified that there had been unbecoming conduct. Simpson claimed that one of the principal male witnesses against him had asked to be allowed to entertain a lady friend at his place and when he refused to allow him to do so the witness became angry.
– Press Democrat, December 7, 1906
TAKEN UNDER ADVISEMENT
The Board of Supervisors took the matter of the refusal to grant a liquor license to George Simson, of the Call saloon No. 2 under advisement late Thursday afternoon. The hearing of the matter continued until 5 o’clock, and the board took an immediate adjournment. The hearing brought to light some matters that were unexpected and it was testified that a certain witness had attempted to meet a “lady” there three times, but without the consent of the proprietor. The woman and other persons at divers times, it was shown in the testimony, had been ejected from the saloon. The petitioners declared that Simpson’s place was noisy and boisterous, and that it was not properly conducted. All of the allegations were specifically denied by Simpson, who declared that his place was conducted equally well as other similar places. One of the lady witnesses declared that a couple of months since two negroes came out of the saloon and addressed remarks to her as she was passing en route to her home. Some witnesses testified to seeing women about the place, but they were not certain it was not Mr. Simpson’s housekeeper, who is there permanently.
– Santa Rosa Republican, December 7, 1906
ARREST UNDER A NEW ORDINANCE
Elisa Perrotta Charged With Violation of Provision for the New Restaurant License
Elisa Perrotta, the erstwhile former proprietor of the Milano hotel on lower Fourth street, who lost his license for disobeying the city ordinance some time ago, and who since opened a restaurant, is again in trouble.
A complaint was sworn out by Police Officer John M. Boyes on Saturday against Perotta charging him with a violation of the new license ordinance No. 238, particular the section applying to restaurant licenses.
It was stated that three men went into Perotta’s restaurant and three drinks were put on a table and at the same time a plate with two or three crackers on it was also placed thereon. The restaurant ordinance provides that liquors can be served with meals only, and the cracker diet is not going to be tolerated and in this instance the arresting officer knew it was only a “blind.”
– Press Democrat, April 21, 1907