September 12, 1907


With Her Field Glass Miss Jessie
Wright Observed the Doings at
Coffee's West 14th St. Resort.
Her Testimony Contradicted.

A portrait painter who is possessed of a pair of opera glasses and a stop-watch is causing a world of trouble for John Coffee, who conducts a saloon at 600 West Fourteenth street and spends his summers in Europe. The portrait painter is Miss Jessie Wright, of 518 1/2 West Fourteenth street. During Coffee's summer abroad Miss Wright observed his back door with her opera glasses and time his customers. Yesterday when Coffee made application for a renewal of his saloon license Miss Wright went before the police board with her remonstrance.
Coffee is also a proprietor of a livery barn just across the street and admitted to the police board that it does look bad to have so many hacks standing about his place day and night, but gave assurance that the hacks seen by Miss Wright and other remonstrators had not carried customers to his place. This statement was borne out by Manager Hyman, of the Blue Front livery. Many witnesses, who live on the block, testified that Coffee runs an orderly saloon. Two sergeants of police and a half dozen patrolmen said they had never had occasion to go there in discharge of duty, yet Miss Wright is positive there is something wrong with the character of the place and the police board promised her to investigate further.


Miss Wright furnished the board with minutes of her nightly vigils which, if borne out by evidence, will cause a general change in the neighborhood about Coffee's saloon. Mayor Beardsley promised Miss Wright this. Crowds of drunken small boys, women who go boldly into a barroom and intoxicated men who intimidate women must be looked after, the mayor said. Among the minutes furnished the police board by Miss Wright were the following:

"Thursday, July 26. -- Big boy got pail filled for little girl.
"Friday night, July 27. -- Three boys filled a 'can' three times in thirty-five minutes. The boy who carries the pail has the advantage of the free sandwiches in the barroom.
"July 30, 12:30 p. m. -- Drunken chauffeur made disgraceful scene and attracted crowd. Said he would return with Con Cronin and clean the place. Con Cronin often comes with his friends.
"Tuesday, Aug. 6. -- Little boy with 'can' could not find the saloon because there is no sign. Man showed him the place.
"Sunday, Aug. 11. -- Four boys waited for saloon to open at midnight. Got pail filled four times in twenty minutes.
"Monday, Aug. 12, 10 p. m. -- Neighbors aroused by trouble at saloon. I called up police at No. 3 at 11:32 p. m. Man said 'uh huh' and did nothing.
"Friday, Aug. 17. -- Bunch of thirteen stayed in saloon forty-three minutes. Came out at 11:40 and finished up their business on the sidewalk.
"August 18. -- Four boys got seven pails in fifty-one minutes. Man across the street yelled 'hello drunks' and Burke was the only one who looked around.
"Same day, 1 a. m. -- Boys from 709 West Fourteenth street filled a 10-pound lard can five times."


Mrs. Minnie Blythe, of 1820 Penn street, was also before the board with a remonstrance against Coffee. When questioned by Coffee's attorney she admitted that she lives five blocks away from the saloon and can't see what goes on there, but she had a lot of information which she said she got from neighbors and she saw streams of women with "cans" every night go up the hill to the saloon.

"It's only two blocks in the other direction to a good saloon," said Charley Shannon, representing Coffee. "Why don't they go there?"

"Well, Coffee sells better beer," Miss Wright interjected.

"Don't you live five blocks away from this saloon?" asked Attorney Shannon.

"Yes," admitted the witness.

"How much of a family have you?"

"I have two small children."

"If you are five blocks away how do you know Coffee violates the law and runs a disorderly place?"

"Well, I took it upon myself to go and see."

"There is somebody, of course, to stay at home with those babies while you are watching Coffee?"

"It's none of your business," replied Mrs. Blythe.

Mrs Blythe told the board that two little girls of the Franklin school have been annoyed by men about Coffee's. She said the timely arrival of assistance saved a 6-year-old child from harm and that a 9-year-old girl who goes past the saloon has been given money by intoxicated men. Miss Wright was once chased into her own house by a "drunk" from Coffee's, she told the board.


Miss Wright had Francis Burke subpoenaed. He was one of the boys she mentioned in her "minutes." She testified that Burke had been drinking on two occasions the same week, and of his keeping company with boys in short pants. Burke took the stand and stated that he does not drink, and that he was never in Coffee's place in company with boys. Further, he stated, he is 22 years old and has carried newspapers to the office of Commissioner Jones for thirteen years. The commissioner said Burke was right about that statement.

When Miss Wright was on the stand, Attorney Shannon asked her how she is able to keep such a close watch on Coffee's back door.

"I have a mighty good pair of opera glasses," she said, "and I keep them trained in that direction."

"At all hours of the night?"

"Well, only when men and women drive up in hacks and awaken me. I saw four women and two men get out of one hack. They come in automobiles, too, and sometimes they go in and sometimes the men bring out the drinks."

"What is your business?"

"I am a portrait painter."

"Do you spend much time at your profession, or do you watch Coffee's saloon all the time?"

"It's none of your business," said the witness.


Mrs. Johnson, who resides at 1332 Penn street, was the first witness introduced in behalf of Coffee. She told the board that she has lived there, next door to the saloon and near the side entrance which is watched by Miss Wright, for eleven years. She said she has never been disturbed by noise or anything else emanating from the saloon. She has never seen hacks stop at Coffee's entrance and has never seen women "canning" beer, as charged by Miss Wright.

Sergeant Duer and Sergeant O'Brien told the board that Coffee's saloon is the most orderly place in their district and that they have never been called there to make arrests or quiet a disturbance since the place opened. Patrolmen Dougherty and Fuller, who walk beats in the vicinity, made statements similar to those of their superior officers. Patrolman Fuller said he has seen Coffee refuse to sell "can" beer to women.

McKeever, the grocer next door to the saloon, stated that women asked him to send his clerks for "can" beer, but that Coffee told him he does not desire that sort of trade and that he gave an order against his clerks extending such accommodations to customers and that he thought that put a stop to the "can" trade.

J. F. O'Donnell, an undertaker, who keeps his livery near Coffee's place, said he is a good friend of the saloon man, but that Coffee refused him a little liquor one Sunday when he wanted it for a visiting friend.

Miss Wright closed her case with a report on the fire department near the saloon. She stated that the firemen drink entirely too much for the good of the service. The board will probably give a decision in the case today.