H2: Regulating Alcohol in the 20th Century and I1: American Alcohol Policy
These two sessions at the Buffalo conference demonstrate how various regulatory systems—including law and policy but also market forces and spatial relationships—interact to shape the availability of alcohol, and also its normalization, in a specific time and place. I found much to think about across the two sessions, and based on many thoughtful questions raised at each session, the rest of the audience did as well.
Session H2: Regulating Alcohol in the 20th Century
In his engaging presentation on the dramatic drop in the number of cafes in France during World War II, Scott Haine connected the Vichy regime’s enforcement of zoning regulations regarding the location of cafes with new visions for urban planning and concerns about population decline. He also noted that the context of the war mattered, as competition among cafes increased sharply in the midst of shortages. The Vichy campaign was not aimed at wine as such, but at cafes as institutions that were considered disreputable.
Dan Malleck analyzed the role of Ontario’s Liquor Control Boards in reconstructing the “citizen drinker” during the 1930s and 1940s, after prohibition ended in Ontario in 1927. With snazzy graphics, Malleck focused on particular hotels in Toronto that applied for the authority to serve alcohol but were rejected. Introducing us to both the interior hotel spaces and the streetscape, Malleck used these examples effectively to probe the nature of bureaucracy and its powers of surveillance, as well as to illuminate the “moral geography” of these drinking spaces and the “calculus of need” that underlay the applications.
William Rorabaugh provided a clear and incisive overview of U.S. alcohol policy as it emerged in the aftermath of national Prohibition, concentrating on Washington State. He emphasized that repeal advocates did not want a free market in alcohol but instead sought strict state control; a preference in the law for lighter drinks; and a three-tier regulatory structure that would prevent vertical integration and forbid producers from becoming too powerful.