E-pistle 2007/003 – A Whisky Lover in a ‘Dry’ Town

By Mark Gillespie, USA

“The charming, yet regrettably dry town of Haddonfield, New Jersey…”
That’s the phrase I use to describe my hometown in the USA, and it’s generated a few wisecracks since I started using it in the debut episode of my weekly WhiskyCastpodcasts. I’ve never really explained what that means before, but perhaps now is the time.

Very simply, there’s no alcohol sold in Haddonfield, which is just a few miles east of Philadelphia. It’s been this way since Prohibition ended in 1932, when New Jersey’s liquor laws gave local governments the authority to declare their towns “dry.” The local restaurants don’t have wine lists, but the laws allow us to bring our own bottles of wine. Personally, I like that idea, since restaurants have a nasty habit of marking up wine prices, and I can get a much better bottle on my own for much less than I’d pay at a restaurant when I take my wife to dinner.

But, you might ask, where can I buy that wine if I live in a dry town? The answer’s easy… There are liquor stores within several blocks of the town’s borders on most of the streets leading into Haddonfield. In fact, there’s even one bar and restaurant that’s right on the border – so much so that the parking lot is actually in Haddonfield! Collingswood is another “dry” town just a couple of miles up Haddon Avenue, and I’ve counted at least four liquor stores and five bars between the two towns. I just wish that at least one of them had a decent selection of whiskies. Three of the bars are at restaurants that pride themselves on having extensive wine lists, but they can’t bother to stock more than a handful of single malts and the basic lineup of blends.

Why do we put up with this situation? Simply, it’s because Haddonfield is a town based in tradition. Like most towns, it has its share of loopholes, and there’s a doozy of a loophole when it comes to liquor sales. See, there’s a bar in town… almost.  Tavistock sits just on the edge of Haddonfield, with a golf club, four houses, 11 residents… and one liquor license. Tavistock seceded from Haddonfield in 1922 during Prohibition because the town’s “blue laws” banned golf on Sundays. After Prohibition ended, Tavistock took advantage of its status as an independent borough to get a liquor license for the golf club. Today, Tavistock might as well be Haddonfield… In fact, most of Haddonfield’s leading citizens belong to the golf club. (I don’t.)

There’s another little bit of irony that makes me chuckle.
Haddonfield has its place in Revolutionary War history. You see, after the Founding Fathers thumbed their noses at King George at Independence Hall in Philadelphia by signing the Declaration of Independence, many of them promptly left town to keep from being arrested by British soldiers. Some of them wound up hiding in Haddonfield, at a little place along the King’s Highway called the Indian King Tavern.

That’s right… the Indian King Tavern.

The Indian King Tavern still stands today. In fact, it’s a museum to Haddonfield’s role in the American Revolution.
A town where it’s illegal to sell alcohol celebrates its heritage with a tavern.

Only in Haddonfield…the charming, yet regrettably dry town of Haddonfield, New Jersey.