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During Prohibition, a state official once complained there were more illegal distilleries in operation in Santa Clara County than in any other county in California.

Speakeasies were hidden in plain sight both in downtown San Jose and in out-of-way locales.

Everyone seemed to be in on it…

Including local government: they were subject to the hypocrisy of enforcement. Bootlegging revenue was too good. Police salaries too low. Temptation too high. Politicians were greedy.

At times, federal agents and local police enforced the rules…

Other times, they looked away.

Corruption was rampant.

When Prohibition was repealed…

Gambling took off. It replaced bootlegging and became the county’s main law enforcement problem. Trying to restrain gambling was about as effective as trying to outlaw liquor.

Like the speakeasies, illegal gambling dens became equipped with hidden false fronts, barricade doors, and secret passwords.

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