A look at local history: Liquor – or the lack thereof – has long story in borough

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In this 1888 photo at the corner of Haddon and Woodlawn avenues, the Half-Way House – built in 1828 and the only tavern in Collingswood – can be seen in the background. In 1873, the town voted to ban the sale of alcohol. The Half-Way House owner, Mahlon Van Booskirk, did not comply and was fined several times later for violating the law. (Courtesy Collingswood Public Library)
In this 1888 photo at the corner of Haddon and Woodlawn avenues, the Half-Way House – built in 1828 and the only tavern in Collingswood – can be seen in the background. In 1873, the town voted to ban the sale of alcohol. The Half-Way House owner, Mahlon Van Booskirk, did not comply and was fined several times later for violating the law. (Courtesy Collingswood Public Library)

In the thriving suburban town of Collingswood, residents and guests can stroll the beautiful tree-lined streets, browse through unique shops and drink their favorite wines at some of the best restaurants in South Jersey. 

However, enjoying an alcoholic beverage with a meal has not always been possible in this quaint town. 

From the days of the first settlers, strong religious feelings were held, ultimately leading to the citizens of the Collingswood section of what was still Haddon Township to vote on excluding liquor in 1873. 

“Prohibition is thought to be related to Collingswood becoming a resort area for people with strong religious beliefs,” said Ginny Brown, Reference Assistant at the Collingswood Library. “Citizens wanted a more wholesome family environment.” 

However, as in most communities, there were those who challenged authority and it is believed a country club and race track both served spirits at the turn of the century, causing them to close their doors. 

“Collingswood was not always dry,” Brown explained, adding a tavern was known to exist in the late 1800’s.

More than 200 years later, Collingswood is officially dry no more – although that change occurred only about a decade ago. 

“Alcohol was only permitted in restaurants in the last 10 years or so,” said Bonny Beth Elwell, Library Director for the Camden County Historical Society. 

Diners can now enjoy BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) and ordering from wine menus at some of their favorite dinner spots. Rules still apply, though, such as restaurants only permitted to offer wines made in New Jersey. 

And while there is still no liquor store in town, Collingswood is now home to its first brewery. Located in the heart of town on Main Street, Devil’s Creek Brewery opened in 2016. With the capacity to brew 1,000 barrels per year which (as the website says) is “pretty good for a town that’s been dry for over 200 years.” 

The brewery features a 900-square-foot tasting room with a pallet-wood wall featuring a rendition of the Jersey Devil (the brewery’s namesake). The tasting room also includes a 19-foot bar that serves 12 beers on tap ranging in styles and changing with the seasons. This time of year, guests can enjoy ales including Sweet Potato Pie, Cordially Yours Chocolate Cherry Stout and Caramel Apple Brown.

So, next time you’re in Collingswood or you’re looking for a great way to imbibe during the holidays, stop by the brewery (masks are a must) and delight in the tastes of the season. Don’t forget to make holiday dinner reservations at some of the best BYOB restaurants around. Serving up cuisine from around the globe, it won’t be hard to find a perfect pairing with your favorite drink.