In July 2020, the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) issued an ordinance requiring bars to promote meals with all alcoholic drinks ordered by diners seated outdoor. Already reeling from the affect of the pandemic, operators with out kitchen amenities discovered a fast workaround to the new mandate, introducing $1 menus with novelty meals gadgets akin to “Cuomo Chips” and “Handful o’ Croutons.”

Whereas his title adorned bar menus throughout the state, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not impressed. The SLA quickly up to date the guidance, warning bar operators that meals gadgets had to be as substantial as a sandwich or bowl of soup, and {that a} bag of chips or handful of baked cubes of bread didn’t qualify. Cuomo Chips might stay on, however solely as a aspect dish.

At the danger of additional sporting out a drained cliché, historical past certain has an odd method of repeating itself: Cuomo Chips should not the first instance of New York bars serving novelty meals gadgets to circumvent newly launched laws, although modern-day diners can rely themselves fortunate that the 2020 workaround bore no resemblance to the earlier incarnation — the notorious, and by all accounts inedible, “Raines Sandwich.”

In 1896, the State of New York launched an alcohol excise legislation, which later got here to be referred to as the “Raines Legislation” after its creator, Sen. John W. Raines. The legislation restricted how and when alcohol might be offered in the state and aimed to crack down on public drunkenness, notably in New York Metropolis.

The Raines Legislation took purpose at the metropolis’s 1000’s of seedy saloons by drastically rising the annual value of liquor licenses and elevating the consuming age from 16 to 18, Darrell Hartman explains in Atlas Obscura. The legislation additionally prohibited the sale of alcoholic drinks on Sundays, besides in accommodations and lodging homes with at the least 10 rooms, the place drinks might be served with complimentary meals.

Savvy operators have been fast to exploit this loophole and continued promoting booze all through the week.

Bar and saloon house owners transformed the further house on their premises — from attics to basements — into the required variety of lodgings. To fulfill the meals requirement, they then devised the least expensive, nastiest answer conceivable.

When patrons entered one among the metropolis’s new “Raines Motels” and ordered a beer or shot of one thing stronger, a server would convey it to them together with a “Raines Sandwich.” No sooner had the plate been set down on the desk, the sandwich would then be whisked again to the bar earlier than accompanying one other drinks order at a special desk.

Drinkers would not often complain. Whereas satisfying the authorized loophole, the sandwiches have been by no means supposed to be eaten, typically containing rubber and even bricks wedged between two slices of bread. Even when substances like ham and cheese have been used as the filling, the sandwich might stay in rotation at the bar for wherever from an entire day to a few weeks.

Playwright Eugene O’Neill described the typical Raines Sandwich as “an outdated desiccated smash of dust-laden bread and mummified ham or cheese.”

In “The Social Historical past of Bourbon,” Gerald Carson writes,  “Infrequently, some yokel picked up a Raines Legislation sandwich and tried to eat it, and all people had chortle.” Carson additionally notes that there’s at the least one recorded incident of a person utilizing a sandwich as a weapon throughout a barroom brawl, tragically ending his adversary’s life with one blow.

It quickly grew to become clear that the laws had failed in spectacular style. Inside one yr of the legislation’s passing, New York Metropolis housed greater than 1,500 Raines Motels. All might now legally serve alcohol at any hour of the day and on any day of the week, and would in the end proceed doing so till the passing of Prohibition.

Quite than curb public drunkenness, the Raines Legislation fueled extra dysfunction. When native authorities tried to push again, they have been shocked to see the courts rule that a “sandwich” satisfied the requirements of being a sufficient “meal” — simply as they’d greater than a century later.

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