Moss Beach Distillery – Moss Beach, California - Atlas Obscura

Moss Beach Distillery

Moss Beach, California

A 1920s speakeasy that had rum runners racing up and down the shores of California. 


Founded in 1927 by restaurant owner Frank Torres, the Moss Beach Distillery was a former 1920s speakeasy that purchased bootlegged spirits during the Prohibition and was frequented by silent movie stars, politicians, and mystery novelist Dashiell Hammet.

Built on cliffs above a private beach, its location lent itself to the merits of the illicit activities of Canadian rum runners, the illegal beverages being dragged up the steep cliffs under cover of darkness to be driven to, and sold in, San Francisco. While a good portion of the alcohol managed to find its way into Frank’s garage, Mr. Torres used his political and social influences to prevent the restaurant from ever being raided. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant was one of the most successful speakeasies along the San Mateo County coastline.

With Prohibition repealed in 1933, ‘Frank’s Place’ stayed in the food business. It managed to last the test of time and is now the Moss Beach Distillery, complete with a new legend.

‘The Blue Lady’ was apparently a young woman who met and had an affair with a handsome piano player. Always dressed in blue, she met with him at the bar and a hotel nearby the Distillery. Legend has it she died in an automobile accident and now haunts the restaurant searching for her lover. Some reports even go so far as to detail the piano player’s unfortunate end: after having an affair with yet another woman (who, some say, threw herself off the cliffs), his body was found headless near the Distillery shores.

Stories surrounding The Blue Lady and her companion vary widely, but one thing remains common, and that is the reports by guests of her activity. Levitating meals and check books, disembodied weeping in the women’s bathroom, a face in the mirror, swinging chandeliers, telephones ringing with no one on the other line, slamming doors, and sightings by children and adults alike mark her presence.

But it seems there may have been another reason for the “haunting.” The mysterious noises, chandeliers, and the face in the bathroom were discovered to have been placed by the restaurant owner in order to enhance the experience.

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