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LADOGA — A Montgomery County hotspot is ready to transport patrons back in time this Friday and Saturday.
Brett and Amy Cating, owners of The Canning Factory Bar & Grill in Ladoga, are transforming their family-friendly restaurant and bar into an old-fashioned speakeasy Friday, Jan. 17 and Saturday, Jan. 18.
Friday marks 100 years since the United States declared alcohol an illegal substance through the 18th Amendment. Though the amendment was repealed Dec. 5, 1933 with the 21st Amendment, the sale and consumption of alcohol was outlawed for nearly 14 years.
It was this period that gave rise to the speakeasy — or an illicit establishment which served alcohol in secret — along with organized crime, bootlegging and illegal gambling, Brett said.
“The speakeasy, or also called a blind pig or blind tiger, was an establishment that sold alcohol where they (commonly) had gaming and dancing,” Brett said. “People would knock on the door and if you had a code word or secret knock, they’d let you in. They were also big on paying off the police officers at the time.”
It is this century’s-old romance with civil rights and the pursuit of keeping one’s family afloat which serve as the Catings’ inspiration for a faux speakeasy this weekend.
“The ‘20s was a rough period of time in the country with no jobs, the stock market crash and different things going on like that,” Brett said. “So they would make money or do things any way they could to get by.”
The Catings have a connection to the time period through Brett’s great-grandfather, Slim Vice, who owned a pool hall in Ladoga that also housed a gaming room for cards upstairs.
“They also sold alcohol through that establishment,” Brett said, noting that in the event an officer drew near, workers on the ground floor would repeatedly flip upstairs light switches on and off to notify drinkers of the impending danger. “(Vice) was one of them who would buy the bulk and cut it down and distribute it to the people who wanted to buy it. My grandpa, Slim’s son, told me one time that there were so many guys selling bootlegged whiskey that they almost all had to wear a badge to keep from trying to sell it to each other. So there was a lot of it going on.
“They really never stopped.”
Friday and Saturday evenings will come complete with period outfits, decorations, live entertainment and even self-imposed “rules” that commonly came with the illegal consumption of alcohol in the 1920s.
“Speakeasies always had ‘house rules,’” Amy said. “So we got a board we’re going to put up front saying ‘these are the speakeasy rules’ like ‘no credit,’ ‘don’t ask,’ ‘if the cops show up, down your drink,’ and ‘the barkeep’s word is law.’ So it’s just going to be some cute little rules that they would use.”
The Canning Factory Bar & Grill, aptly named after the sprawling canning factories present in Ladoga, is located at 103 E. Main St., Ladoga.
For more information about this weekend’s speakeasy tribute, which is set to run from 3 p.m. to midnight each night, call 765-942-5088.