1908 Kalispell Ordinance: Saloon Hours
I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it’d be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. If I can find enough interesting material, I hope to share one ordinance from each year. This week’s post will cover a Kalispell ordinance I found from 1908. (PS, I’m skipping 1907 for now; I need some photos to finish that one!)
There were actually several interesting ordinances from the 1908 Kalispell City Council, but the one I chose has to do with a simple thing, the hours that a saloon or bar could be open. That ordinance, #201, went into effect on April 1, 1909.
The ordinance indicates that every saloon as well as all bars in every hotel, inn tavern, club or any other place in Kalispell where “spirituous, vinous, fermented or malt liquors or beverages” are sold must be closed between midnight and 6am. They also must be closed every Sunday.
Further, the saloon proprietors or employees must remove any obstructions such as “screens, curtails, movable blinds, shutters, paint, frost, dirt or other things” during the closed hours so that there would be a clear view into the establishment. I suspect this was so law enforcement could easily tell whether the saloon was following the rules or not.
If someone violated these rules, the ordinance indicates they would be fined between $25 and $300 or put in jail for between 30-90 days. If convicted a second time, they’d lose their liquor license and they would not be able to get another license for a year.
There was a caveat however for pharmacists. They were allowed to provide “spiritous, vinous, fermented or malt liquors” during those hours if filling out the prescription of a “reputable and duly licensed physician” – but the fluid could not be consumed at the pharmacy. Doctors or pharmacists who were found to have written a prescription for the purpose of evading this ordinance would receive the same penalties as above.
How have things changed since 1908?
First, the number of hours that bars are allowed to stay open in Kalispell has remained the same but somewhere along the way the hours that they can open changed to 8am, and the closing time changed to 2am. Also, bars are no longer required to close on Sundays.
Also, while it may seem strange today, there was a time when whiskey and brandy were scientifically approved medicines listed in The Pharmacopeia of the United States of America. So the rules that mentioned pharmacists and doctors above were because they routinely subscribed those substances. It wasn’t until 1916 that whiskey and brandy were removed from the list of approved medicines. Today if you want whiskey you’ll have to visit one of Kalispell’s liquor stores or bars (during appropriate hours of course).
In terms of current penalties for a licensee who violates 2023 Montana liquor license rules, Montana Code 16-6-314 indicates if the licensee is convicted of any offense, the license will be immediately revoked UNLESS the court chooses another option for extenuating circumstances. They could, instead of revoking a license, issue the license to be suspended for a certain period of time or they could just reprimand the guilty licensee or fine them up to $1500. So in some ways the consequences are worse than in 1908 (immediate revocation of license) and on the other hand they might be a lot looser since there are so many potential other options that could be followed.
So the bottom line is that not much has changed since 1908 except that pharmacists no longer dispense whiskey.
And there you have it, another blast from the past of Kalispell Montana. I wonder what I’ll find the next time I peek into the Kalispell Ordinances?
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