6 Metro Detroit bars that used to be speakeasies during Prohibition era

Travel back to the Prohibition era at these Detroit-area bars

Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith, former police officers during Prohibition, sharing a toast in a bar. (Library of Congress)
Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith, former police officers during Prohibition, sharing a toast in a bar. (Library of Congress)

DETROIT – Since Detroit was one of the biggest bootlegging capitals during the Prohibition era, it's probably no surprise how many speakeasies popped up around the city.

Related: Prohibition ended 85 years ago today: Here's what it looked like in Detroit

Speakeasies, also called a blind pig or blind tiger, became popular in the United States during the Prohibition era, from 1920 to 1933. They were "underground" bars that offered the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages.

Related: When the 'Purple Gang' ruled Detroit

The illegal operations were often connected to organized crime. They were so profitable, that even frequent federal raids couldn't shut down the industry.

Although they vanished after Prohibition ended in 1933, many of the establishments remain around the Detroit-area. Here are some of them:

Nancy Whiskey - Detroit-Corktown

Established in 1902, Nancy Whiskey has been a part of the Detroit bar scene for more than 100 years, boasting the oldest liquor license in the city.

When Prohibition started, Detroiters still went to Nancy Whiskey to enjoy a drink as a speakeasy customer.

Today, the dive bar is a popular spot for sports fans and beer fans alike.

Address: 2644 Harrison St, Detroit, MI 48216

Cadieux Cafe - Detroit-East English Village

Cadieux Cafe is popular these days for its Belgian feather bowling, but its history dates back to the 1930s.

Cadieux Cafe first opened in the early 1930s as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, owned by Belgian immigrants.

Address: 4300 Cadieux Rd, Detroit, MI 48224

More: How rum-running became one of Detroit's biggest industries during Prohibition era

Tommy's Detroit Bar & Grill - West Riverfront/Downtown

Tommy's is one of the most historic bars in the city. Not only was the building built in 1840, but the basement once served as an outlet for the Underground Railroad.

Tommy's underground tunnels were also used to move booze from Canada into the U.S., given its proximity to the Detroit River.

More: Secrets behind Detroit bar may go back 100 years

Address: 624 3rd Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

2 Way Inn - Detroit-East Side

The 2 Way Inn is the oldest bar in Detroit, opening way back in 1876. The bar became a speakeasy during Prohibition and still exists today.

Bar owner Mary Aganowski, whose father bought the bar in 1973, still tends the bar on most days.

Address: 17897 Mount Elliott Street, Detroit, MI 48212

Frank's Eastside Tavern - Mt. Clemens

This Mt. Clemens tavern is located in the basement of a 100-year-old farmhouse.

It was a speakeasy that served illegal booze to patrons for 13 years. The ceilings are so low that anyone over six feet tall has to duck.

These days, the bar is surrounded by residential homes.

Address: 129 Avery, Mount Clemens, MI 48043

Gold Star Bar - Wyandotte

Gold Star Bar is Downriver's oldest bar, opening back in 1923 as a Prohibition era speakeasy.

These days, the bar is a no frills neighborhood dive bar.

Address: 898 Vinewood St, Wyandotte, Michigan 48192

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.