Bars and Saloons before Prohibition

Liquor was an issue in Fargo from its very beginning. The residents of Fargo on the Prairie took exception to the rougher residents of Fargo in the Brush and had the encampment in the woods raided and closed in February 1871 by the authorities on the pretext of the residents selling liquor on an Indian reservation. Saloons soon thrived, however, in the newly founded city of Fargo.


The 1883 Fargo City Directory lists 12 saloons in Fargo:

  • Fashion
  • Senate Saloon
  • Charles Moen
  • McCauley & Garvey
  • J. M. Morrison
  • William O'Neill
  • John A. Smith
  • M. Kalbrenner
  • Hedstead & Kjos
  • L. Christopher
  • J. Geriet
  • Hadley & Francis

On November 2, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison approved the admission of North Dakota to the United States. In that same year, a state Constitutional prohibition of alcoholic beverages was enacted. For the next 43 years alcoholic beverages were illegal in North Dakota. Fargo saloon owners quickly moved across the river to Moorhead where the sale of liquor flourished for 30 years until national prohibition took effect on January 17, 1920.

In November 1932, a North Dakota state referendum abolished state prohibition laws—demonstrating the strength of nationwide repeal sentiment that culminated in the passage and ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment to the US Constitution in 1933. North Dakota still banned the sale of hard liquor until voters passed a referendum in November 1936. According to the Fargo Forum & Daily Republican December 7, 1936, the first licenses approved were to, Jake Ackerman, 710 Front Street; C. E. Stevens, Todd's, 520 Front Street; LeChateau cafe, 2 Broadway; Andrew Ginakes, Empire, 424 Broadway; Grand Recreation club, 618-20 1st Avenue N.; Nick J. Pappas, Virginia Cafe, 616 Front Street; A. Solow, Silver Tray, 604 Front Street; H. Gran, Palm Room Cafe, 226 Broadway; C. H. Tompkins, Chicago Gardens, 230 Broadway; and E. A. Revell, Five Spot, 209 Broadway.

Fargo and Moorhead City Directory. Fargo, 1881-1927.