New York City is famous for many things including the worst sandwich in the land. The Big Apple gave the USA the worst-tasting and the best-selling sandwich in US history. Clearly, there is a paradox here because you do not expect a sandwich that does not taste good to be the best-selling product in the land. However, this is New York where anything can and does happen.
The John Raines Connection
The worst sandwich on planet earth has a strong connection to an American senator called John Raines. In the late 19th century, this republican senator noticed his constituents in New York were simply in love with booze. Now, liking your drink is one thing but getting drunk too often was unacceptable to Senator John Raines. As fate would it, around this time, the police commissioner was the one and only Teddy Roosevelt who later became the US President. Commissioner Roosevelt, as he then was, happened to be a puritan who was preaching law and order. John Raines and Teddy Roosevelt came together and decided to do something about the drinking habits of New Yorkers.
The Raines Law
In 1896, Senator John Raines got the state of New York to pass the Raines’ Law. This law had many stipulations and it drastically altered the drinking landscape of the Big Apple. Among other stipulations, bars could not be built within 200 feet of churches and schools. The drinking age was jerked up from 16 to 18 years and bars were compelled to close at midnight on Saturday. In addition, bar owners could no longer give out free meals to customers who purchased drinks. Meanwhile, this law made it clear that bars had to keep their curtains open. As a result, bar owners could not serve certain trusted customers secretly on Sundays. In any case, the patrolmen employed by Teddy Roosevelt’s police force were on hand to catch any offenders in the act. Clearly, the Raines law was unacceptable to many New Yorkers.
Effects of the Law on the Lower Classes
The Raines Law hit he working classes hard. This is because the lower classes worked hard and could not afford expensive hobbies and recreation. Their only way to unwind was to have a few drinks on Sundays when they were not working. In particular, this law affected the migrant Germans and Irish communities. This law also adversely affected the Jewish communities in New York. Since most of them did not drink on the Sabbath day, Sunday was their “drinking day”. Since the Raines Law had cancelled drinking on Sundays, they were not happy with this law.
Looking for a Loophole
New Yorkers do not have a habit of moaning and doing nothing. People in the Big Apple believe in taking action and this is precisely what they did about the Raines Law. New Yorkers knew that every law is likely to have a loophole. They looked for a loophole in the Raines Law and they found one. The Raines Law had a clause that allowed lodging houses and hotels to serve alcohol with meals seven days a week. Bar owners and people who loved to drink took advantage of this loophole. The bar owners simply added beds to their outfits and became lodging houses. Now they could serve alcohol with meals seven days a week.
The Birth of the Raines Sandwich
Since the bars had effectively become lodging houses, people who wanted to drink on Sundays could do this by ordering a drink as well as a meal. People who wanted to drink on Sundays in New York simply walked into a lodging facility and ordered a drink and a Raines Sandwich. When the waiter served the drink and the sandwich, the customer ignored the sandwich and concentrated on the drink. Another customer walks in and orders a drink and a Raines sandwich. Now, you should understand the manipulation happening here. Instead of preparing different sandwiches for each order, waiters simply kept serving the same Raines sandwich with different drinks to their customers.
Attempt to Combat the Raines Sandwich
Eventually, law enforcement officers got wise to the Raines sandwich gimmick. The advocates of no “drinking on Sundays” challenged the Raines sandwich gimmick in court. The court ruled that the Raines sandwich was a complete meal and that lodging houses could continue to serve this meal with drinks seven days a week. At the end of the day, the working class New Yorkers won and the booze continued to flow.
As you can see, the worst sandwich in the world was actually created for a very dark purpose. Some folks had the impression that the Raines Law took away some of their fundamental human rights. They therefore invented the Raines sandwich to get around this law.