Moriarty’s Wonderful Saloon

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Of the quality of Moriarty’s liquor, it is impossible to say much at this remove. Scotch, gin, bourbon, and champagne were about all the variety stocked and, in all probability, they represented the best talents of local New York distillers and vintners. Uncut, authentic imported spirits could be had at such exalted resorts as Jack & Charlie’s, but their price would have inhibited the college trade at Dan’s and been completely beyond the reach of the neighborhood Irish. Sometimes case goods were delivered boldly from a large truck during business hours with no more attempt at concealment crossing the sidewalk than would have been accorded so much furniture or groceries; but mostly deliveries were made at night.

In retrospect, it may be said that nobody died of the liquor at Moriarty’s who wouldn’t have come to the same end at any other establishment he might have cared to frequent.

Nor is it possible to remember any crises of a major order with law enforcement officers. Whatever fixing of federal and local officials may have been necessary was accomplished with such finesse that there is no record of any raid or attempted raid on the premises, although Dan or Mort may well have had to bar known federal agents. Now and then there were ominous periods when traffic through the front door was briefly suspended “until somebody went away.”

With Repeal, of course, the reason for the existence of Moriarty’s vanished into thin air. Mort, I believe, was already dead and Dan made no attempt to carry on as a legitimate saloonkeeper under the new dispensation that saw so many well-established New York speakeasies convert to legality.

Sometime in the late thirties the city desk of the Herald Tribune called me over and said: “Your old friend Dan Moriarty is dead. Will you write his obituary? All the space you want.” A record of Dan’s many benevolences and fraternal affiliations, his political connections, and other aspects of lawful citizenship was available to camouflage judiciously the essential fact, known to all New York, that Dan had been one of its foremost bootleggers. But all of us were mindful of the sacrosanct nature of the Tribune ’s obituary page. At long last a solution suggested itself. The last line of my obituary read, “Long after prohibition had become the law of the land it was Mr. Moriarty’s sentimental whim to conduct the business of his restaurant amidst the atmosphere and physical properties of an old-time saloon.”

This, until the Doomsday Book is opened, should do as well as any other for Dan’s memorial.