Guess How Many Bars Alphabet City Had in 1885?

June 26, 2013 | Andy Cush

First, guess how many bars there are in the area of the Lower East Side and East Village bounded by 14th Street, Rivington Street, Avenue B, and the East River today. I’ll give you a minute.

There are 74, according to the State Liquor Authority. Nothing to turn your nose up at, but a little lower than I would have thought. Now, let’s turn our attention to the past. More? Less? About the same?

A map from the February 19, 1885 issue of the Christian Union newspaper, reported in DNAinfo, shows no less than 346 houses of booze in the same area. That’s more than three times the bars that stand today. So many, in fact, that it was branded “Beerdom.” According to the article, they were mostly German beer halls.

Apparently it wasn’t all vice. “I came into the ward expecting to find nothing, but filth and vice,” said a member of the clergy about the area at the time. “But I could take you into hundreds of homes where you would find ease and comfort and culture.”