Temperance movement and prohibition
Towards the end of the 19th century, the temperance movement began to gain influence in our country, which had an impact also on the restaurant business. The temperance movement adopted an opinion according to which the peasants and the working class were being corrupted by the influence of alcohol. Because of this, it was not allowed to open any restaurants in the countryside. After several years of fierce efforts, the temperance movement got its way and the prohibition started on the 1st of June 1919. Among the citizens, the prohibition was not considered to be a law, and the law was commonly broken.
After few years of the prohibition had passed, it became obvious that abstinence was not going to be achieved; on the contrary, alcohol consumption and violence only increased. The prohibition era is a great example on how banning can make something desired and exiting.
It goes without saying that alcoholic beverages were served also in Seurahuone during the prohibition. The drinks served during that era, were mainly spirit-based. The alcohol was acquired either from bootleggers, sailors or via prescriptions from doctors. Alcoholic beverages were served from coffee or tea mugs, pilsner bottles or milk jugs. Alcoholic beverages were served from the correct cups only in private cabinets.
Even though the prohibition complicated restaurant operations, the 1920’s was a very active time in the business. People used to visit restaurants to dine, to socialize and to dance. The operation was active also in Seurahuone. The range of music was wide and there was at least one concert per day. The tables were usually reserved in advance.
The prohibition ended on the 5th of April 1932 after a referendum where 70,6 % of the population voted against the prohibition. A law was passed, which gave a monopoly of the import, production and sales of alcoholic beverages to Alkoholiliike Ltd.
Seurahuone was the only first-class hotel in town in the 1930’s. At that time SÃ¤llskapsklubben was located in the Seurahuone premises, on the first floor. During that era the clientele of the hotel consisted mostly of travelling salesmen, who occasionally organized fashions shows, where the receptionists were doing the modeling. In addition to travelling salesmen, Seurahuone was sometimes also the home of celebrities. For instance, the head of the Lapua movement, Vihtori Kosola, and the daughter of Sibelius, Ruth Snellman and her husband Jussi Snellman spent their nights in Seurahuone during their acting tours.
The hotels rooms were then a bit more basic. There was no running water in the rooms and therefore the washing up was done with the help of wash basin and a jug in a bathroom located on the second floor. The cleaners were in charge of water provision. The water was heated with the help of a wood stove, so preparing a bath was time-consuming. The travelers and their luggage were transported to the hotel by a horse and carriage. After the prohibition ended, the restaurant life became more active and the restaurant premises of Seurahuone became insufficient. The basement restaurant was expanded in 1933. The interior design of the restaurant was clean and cozy.
The decade in question was an active time in Seurahuone apart from its first years. Especially bigger events were organized. However, a permission for organizing an event and a permission for serving alcohol needed to be requested separately before every event. In the 30’s also organizing dance and music programs were activities subject to license and it was not allowed to organize such activities more often than twice a week. The local police got to decide on which days it was allowed to organize programs. The restaurant also had to pay a stamp tax of 800 mk for every program.