Chicago and the Volstead Act: Schaller's Pump and Shinnick's Pub
By Chuck Sudo in Food on Dec 2, 2008 4:00PM
Counting down to the diamond anniversary of Repeal Day, we take a look at two Bridgeport taverns with speakeasy roots. During the early part of the 20th Century, Chicago was a brewing mecca. Schlitz set up public houses throughout the city with their distinctive logo (Schuba's Tavern is housed in an old Schlitz house). Classic beer brands such as Olympia, Monarch, Meister Brau, Old Chicago and Bull Frog were brewed here. Our neck of the woods in Bridgeport was home to both the Manhattan and Ace breweries.
Another brewery that called Bridgeport home was the Ambrosia Brewery. When Prohibition was enacted, Ambrosia ran lines to a speakeasy set up at 3714 S. Halsted, where they pumped their beer into the house for waiting customers allowed entry only after a thorough vetting via a peephole on the south side of the building.
And that is how Schaller's Pump earned its name. No discussion about Prohibition in Chicago is complete without at least referencing Schaller's, which is also the oldest restaurant in the city after the Berghoff closed last year. Today that peep hole is covered in beer ads, the high tin ceiling is covered in layers upon layers of paint and the rest of the bar and building is painted in the colors of the baseball team that calls the neighborhood home.
Another Bridgeport bar with a speakeasy history is Shinnick's Pub (3758 S. Union). The bar itself has been open since the 1890s and known as Shinnick's since 1938. Customers entered in a labyrinthine manner: they entered through an upstairs apartment, went through the hallway and were buzzed. Today Shinnick's is a shot-and-a-beer bar and worth visiting to take in the beauty of its antique oak back bar with Roman-style pillars, knurled woodwork, and a wooden saloon-style cash register. Shinnick's back room has also seen enough deals made in it by local politicos that the bar has earned the nickname "Little City Hall."
Image of Schaller's Pump via Koronkiewicz.com.