The Veterans' Big Beer Hall at Dayton

This article appeared in the New York Times, January 3, 1895

 

The Veterans’ Big Beer Hall at Dayton

Orderly Management of the Barroom of the National Soldiers’ Home.

 

From The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette.

There are other beer halls in the world, but they can’t hold a candle beside that at the National Soldiers’ Home at Dayton, Ohio. The profits aggregate nearly $50,000 a year in an establishment which handles but one beverage. The home is supported by the Government, but there are many pleasures which accrue only through management and forethought. In the list, for instance, may be included theatrical engagements, library books, the flower garden, and many other sources of amusement. Experience had taught those in a position to judge and exercise authority that the veteran will have his tipple at all hazards. A time-tested experiment has convinced the authorities that each home should maintain a beer hall, or rather, allow said enterprise to be self-supporting, which it undoubtedly is fifty times over. In all the world none are fair counterparts of the Central Branch resort. The receipts do not lack much of reaching $100,000 a year, and out of the profits the theatre, libraries, flower garden, and other amusements are maintained each year. Besides this, hundreds of impecunious soldiers are relieved, and the balance – in fact, the total – is devoted to the post fund; from which the foregoing special privileges receive their life-giving pleasure.

            The average amount of beer consumed each day is twenty-four barrels, the latter word should not be confused with kegs, for in speaking of such small cooperage we would say ninety-six. All beer-drinking nations are represented. The other day 5,280 glasses of beer were sold. Each glass was well filled, and contained an even pint. Hence 320 gallons of beer were consumed, netting a revenue of $264. Of this amount 60 or 70 per cent was profit. A barrel brings a return of $11, about half - $5.25 – being net revenue. At this rate twenty-four barrels would aggregate $126 profit from beer in one day. This may consistently be said to be an average showing. As the hall is open six days out of the seven, from 7 o’clock until 5:30, or 353 days during the year, a profit of $45,000 or more is easily noticeable. The maximum amount of annual profit since the establishment of the beer hall was $48,000.

            Members are limited to certain amounts, and many are barred. Many of those who are constant patrons of the bar are given from six to seven glasses per day. At any time during the day a crowd of several hundred soldiers may be seen in quiet confab, hobnobbing one with the other. The presence of 500 at a time is frequently noted, and during the holiday week a thousand have swarmed the renowned hall. While the walls are fringed with small tables and chairs, the crowds appear to stand. No political or other arguments are allowed, but pleasant and vivacious conversation is ever on tap. Perfect order must reign, for a force of eight guards, in charge of a Lieutenant and Sergeant, are on duty in the hall. The resort has been subjected to criticism – all public institutions are to a greater or less extent. Some of those in the business would prefer to enjoy the trade on the outside of the home to near proximity, but wiser heads have consulted in the matter, with the admirable results attained.

            The chief of this department is Sergt. John W. Eagleton, a genial Easterner, who assumed control when the new hall was first opened on Sept. 26, 1891. An old hall had been in operation since July 12, 1886, but from the profits gained a new and modern one-story brick building was constructed near by, and the old structure, which had been so popular, changed into the headquarters of the Keely Gold Cure Club – a travesty of the ironical order, but business is prospering at both places. The building is of exceptional length, with two parallel bars made of oak. At the south end are offices for the chief and his two cashiers, while the patrolmen of the guard are also there ensconced. Soldiers buy the beverage with chips obtained at the cashier’s desk.

            The building is heated by steam and lighted by gas and electricity. The basement is a notable place, with two thousand or more barrels of beer.

            In connection with the sale of beer, comes the adjunctive sale of cigars, costing $45 a thousand and sold for 5 cents each. It is plainly seen that a profit of one-half a cent is but a nominal one. Each day 100 loaves of bread and one barrel of pretzels, with mustard, are given away as a free lunch, while sandwiches containing 10 cents worth of cheese are disposed of for half that amount. These favors are appreciated.

            The building is equipped with a beer vault that rivals the best known, and when it is considered that the plain building, with scarcely any ornamentation, cost $20,000, the perfect equipments certainly enter the expenditure.

            The average day’s business may be thus summarized:

            5, 280 pints of lager at 5 cents……….$264.00

                144 cigars at 5 cents……………….      7.20

                  40 sandwiches at 5 cents…………      2.00

                                                                        ________

            Total………………………………….$273.20

            A visit during the busiest hours, from 4 till 5:30, the closing time, will always disclose well regulated, orderly crowds, who warm their indulgences with temperance.