In Search of Lost Speakeasies: Prohibition in Rochester, Pt. II

Not only were many of Rochester’s saloons “wide open” during Prohibition, they also existed in virtually every neighborhood in the city.

More often than not, streets in mixed-use areas contained more than one such establishment. On Front Street, though this is an extreme example, at least 10 businesses on the 100 block alone were raided during Prohibition.

This 1935 city plat map depicts the section in question, which ran from Market Street to Andrews Street (the Genesee Crossroads Garage now occupies much of this area):


Businesses at 109,113, 120, 126, 127, 128, 137, 143, 145 and 150 Front St were all raided by Prohibition agents.

In order to stay ahead of the law, speakeasy proprietors would sometimes move their business to a new nearby location to best serve their neighborhood’s residents.

After suffering four raids, Michael Lomio, who owned a saloon at 524 Jay Street, furnished a door at the rear of his building facing Orchard Street.  Though the tactic worked temporarily, authorities caught on to the maneuver and by 1929 had busted Lomio at his “new” establishment at 212 Orchard Street.

The Jay Street edifice was torn down years later, a fate which befell many former speakeasies across the city. Some sites were replaced with vacant lots, others with housing complexes and still others with commercial and industrial buildings.

Collegetown now marks the site where Benedict Spiegel’s somewhat notorious hotel—it was raided at least 4 times—once stood. An exclusive speakeasy called the “Viper Club” occupied the third floor of an East Avenue edifice located where the IRS building stands now.  Just a few blocks away on Swan Street, Louis Dustin ran a “beer flat” (a speakeasy maintained in an apartment or private room) at the approximate location of the Eastman School of Music’s Hatch Recital Hall.

Other former speakeasies were saved from the dustbin of history and still grace the streets of Rochester, though many have been repurposed.

This former “scofflaw” haunt at the corner of Joseph and Pardee is now a house of worship.


Rochester residents once bought illicit beer at Harold O’Brien’s cigar shop speakeasy at 819 Clinton Avenue North. Now they can purchase it legally at the grocery store which currently occupies the building.


This former saloon at the corner of Hudson and Weaver run by Polish immigrant Felix Rogowicz, is now home to some of his brethren at the Polish American Citizens Club.



In 1933, a padlock barred hooch hunters from entering Frank T. Frank’s speakeasy at the corner of South and Gregory. Now Rochesterians are free to do their taxes in the building.


Rochester residents can also frequent formerly forbidden saloons that are still operating as bars today.

The onetime South Goodman Street headquarters of the Monroe Social Club, which was busted for having both booze and slot machines in the early 1930s, is now occupied by the Scotch House.



An erstwhile “soft drink” purveyor at the corner of Clinton and Meigs is now home to the Firehouse Saloon.


Just a few blocks down from the Firehouse lies Dicky’s, a saloon dating back to the late 19th century. Prohibition agents found 57 gallons of cider on the premises during just one of several raids the Meigs Street bar endured.


One of the city’s most notorious speakeasies is also still standing today.


The Lyell Avenue building now occupied by Tucci’s, was known alternately in the Prohibition era as the Daylight Inn, The Twilight Inn and the Motor inn depending on the time of day it was frequented. It was formally listed in the city directory as John Brown, Soft Drinks. The establishment’s official moniker did not fool  Prohibition agents, who launched four raids on the joint between 1932 and 1933 and issued the business two padlocks in as many years.



-Emily Morry


Published in: on January 31, 2017 at 5:05 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I have a map of speakeasies raided in 1932. I can send you a copy

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