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Griffith Stadium: From Prohibition to Beer Gardens in 1956

Learn the history of Griffith Stadium, where owner Clark Griffith was an adamant prohibitionist before finally allowing the sale of beer in 1956. Read all about it here!
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Prohibition lasted at Griffith Stadium well past the official repeal. You may not know this, but unfortunately for Senators fans, owner Clark Griffith was a teetotaling prohibitionist. He was adamantly opposed to permitting the sale of beer in his stadium. Ugh, that sucks. Maybe that’s why the old Senators were so terrible?

Clark Griffith circa 1940 (Library of Congress)
Clark Griffith circa 1940 (Library of Congress)

Well, the one good thing that came with Griffith’s passing in 1955 was the approval of a beer garden for the following summer. Reading this article from August 10th, 1956, makes you see the origins of today’s Red Porch at Nats Park.

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Griffith Stadium, an island of prohibition for more than half a century, tonight enters a new phase as a licensed beer garden, Washington’s largest.

The Washington Baseball Club yesterday won a beer-selling license from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and is prepared to start serving tonight to thirsty fans at the Nats-Red Sox game.

Tables and benches, already installed to meet regulations that beer must be served to table-sitters, have transformed what used to be the front rows of the outfield bleachers into a spacious spot for the parched to quench their thirst.

This is a departure from the policy of the late Clark Griffith, an adamant prohibitionist, who regused to admit the product into the stadium that bears his name.

The defection of the Washington Club from prohibitionist ranks leaves only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as major league parks not selling beer.

It would serve Philadelphia right to return to the days of prohibiting the sale of beer.

The area expropriated from the bleachers to serve beer patrons presently accommodates 170 persons. Club officials say the section will be expanded to serve 500. Easy access will be provided for grandstand and box seat holders.

It will be a club policy that the beer be served only in paper cups, in deference to the proximity of the athletes to field-side imbibers who might be tempted to throw bottles.

Any beer-drinking fan tempted to stand up and cheer for a home run hit into the salon sector will be sternly reminded that he is violating the law if he is so forgetful as to rise to his feet with his drink in his hand.

There is utterly no significance, it was said, that the struggling seventh-place Nats were awarded what the ABC board designates as Class D license.

You can drink beer, but only from this paper cup … and don’t you dare stand up and cheer for your home team. Enjoy your beer.

Griffith Rooftop boxes (griffithstadium.com)
Griffith Rooftop boxes (griffithstadium.com)

Oh, the Senators lost the game 3 to 2 in a short, two hour game in front of 7,457 fans who were now able to buy beer. I’m sure this time, they didn’t care who won. The beer was now flowing.

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Ghosts of DC stories.