Ridgewood bar had intriguing links to Prohibition and World War II: Our Neighborhood, The Way it Was

Two Kioodles, shown here as it looked in December 1987, was a famous Ridgewood bar from the 1930s into the 1980s.

Prior to World War I, the large brewers in the New York area had real estate departments. They owned buildings in residential and commercial neighborhoods, usually at good corner locations, which they leased out for use as a saloon.

One of these brewers was the Samuel Liebmann’s Sons Brewing Company, the original brewers of Rheingold beer. A few years before the U.S. entered World War I, they bought a storefront located at 770 Onderdonk Ave. in Ridgewood and leased the ground floor for use as a saloon serving their beer.

The U.S. became involved in “The War to End All Wars” in April 1917, and the conflict soon began cutting into the American liquor industry. That August, President Woodrow Wilson shut down whiskey distilleries, cutting off their raw material supplies under the Food Control Act. Then, in December of that year, he reduced the food materials used for brewing by 30 percent, and also ordered breweries to limit the alcoholic content of their beer to no more than 2.75 percent by weight.

Restrictions in liquor production, combined with the ongoing Temperance movement, ultimately led to the ratification of the 18th Amendment — a ban on alcoholic beverage production, sale and consumption — in January 1919. National Prohibition took effect the following January.

No brewery operated in Brooklyn longer than this one, known for a time as S. Liebmann’s Sons, which produced Rheingold Beer. Of its 121 years in Kings County, all but the first were spent on Forrest Street off Bushwick Avenue.

S. Liebmann’s Sons Brewing Company closed its Onderdonk Avenue saloon and sold the property on Dec. 15, 1919. The new owners, Peter and Tessie Neu, owned the site until January of 1932, when they transferred ownership of it to the 770 Onderdonk Avenue Realty Corporation.

National Prohibition, of course, failed for myriad reasons, and momentum toward its repeal grew in the early 1930s, as the nation suffered through the Great Depression. The Cullen Bill, enacted in April 1933 (a month after Franklin D. Roosevelt became president), allowed brewers to produce beer with an alcoholic content by weight of 3.2 percent. Then, on Dec. 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment repealing the 18th Amendment was ratified, and any and all limitations on alcoholic beverage production were lifted.

The corner saloon at Onderdonk Avenue would be restored under different ownership. By 1938, the “Two Kioodles” tavern was in operation. One of its owners was Josef Dessinger, who lived on Madison Street with his wife, Katie. It is believed the other owner was Karl Thieun, who resided in Glendale.

A kioodle (pronounced key-oodle) was a German name for a small dog that tends to yip. Why this name was selected for the tavern, we do not know. However, Two Kioodles became a popular hangout in Ridgewood; business grew so much that, prior to World War II in the Ridgewood/Glendale area, it was known among brewery workers as the largest beer drop, with some 65 half-barrels of beer per week.

It was famous not only in the neighborhood but also among some visitors from Germany, who came to visit Ridgewood, which at the time was heavily populated with German immigrants and their children.

How famous was Two Kioodles? Two World War II stories that we’ve heard over the years answer that question in a rather infamous way.

In the spring of 1943, when German submarines were pounding the North Atlantic convoys, a merchant ship in a convoy was torpedoed. The crew of the freighter put over their lifeboats and pulled away from the sinking ship. The convoy continued onward without stopping to pick up survivors.

Eventually, after the convoy had passed, one of the German submarines surfaced near one of the lifeboats. The u-boat captain called over in English and asked if any of the lifeboat passengers needed food, water or medicine. Because the lifeboat had adequate supplies, the merchant sailors said they didn’t need anything.

The u-boat captain then asked if anyone from New York was on board the lifeboat. One merchant sailor said he was from Ridgewood, Long Island. The captain then asked if he knew Kioodles. When the sailor responded that he did know of it, the captain then asked when he last visited the location. The merchant sailor said about two years prior, in 1941.

The u-boat captain went on to say that he had been there after that. The United States entered World War II on Dec. 8, 1941, one day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the same day that Nazi Germany had declared war on the United States.

Another incident occurred when a soldier from Ridgewood had been captured by the German Army in Europe. He was interrogated by a German officer who spoke English. The story goes that the German officer saw the soldier’s dog tag — which indicated that he resided in Ridgewood, Long Island — and asked him about Kioodles.

Two Kioodles continued to be a popular drinking hole in Ridgewood through the 1980s, when it closed.

Sourced from the May 9, 1985, issue of the Ridgewood Times.

* * *

If you have any remembrances or old photographs of “Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you would like to share with our readers, please write to the Old Timer, c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361, or send an email to [email protected] Any print photographs mailed to us will be carefully returned to you upon request.

More from Around New York