In America, the word shebeen saw general use by Irish immigrants who worked in the anthracite patches of Pennsylvania. One of the leaders of the Molly Maguires was a shebeen-keeper, hanged in Scranton.
In South Africa and Zimbabwe, Shebeens are most often located in black townships as an alternative to pubs and bars, where during apartheid and the Rhodesian era, black Africans could not enter a pub or bar reserved for white Africans. Originally, shebeens were operated illegally, selling homebrewed alcohol and providing patrons with a gathering place where they could meet and discuss political and social issues. Often, patrons and owners were arrested by the police, though the shebeens were frequently reopened because of their importance in unifying the community and providing a safe place for discussion. During the apartheid shebeens became a crucial place for activists to meet, some attracting lower class activists and community members, while others attracted lawyers, doctors and musicians. Shebeens also provided music and dancing, allowing patrons to express themselves culturally, which eventually helped give rise and support the musical genre kwaito. Currently, shebeens are legal in South Africa and have become an integral part of South African urban culture, serving commercial beers as well as Umqombothi, a traditional African beer made from millet. Shebeens still form an important part of today’s social scene. In contemporary South Africa, they serve a function similar to juke joints for African Americans in the rural south. They represent a sense of community, identity, and belonging. Today, they are legally operated and appeal to Africa’s youth, ages 18-24, mostly owned by men. Shebeens are bouncing back as South Africans try to preserve some of their rich cultural heritage. Shebeens are a custom in the black community that will be passed on from one generation to the next, and like any custom they are susceptible to change in order to fit new lifestyles. The word is of Irish origin, spelt síbín in Irish Gaelic, though its etymology is obscure.
Shebeen owners vow to fight state threat to seize their property; 'This plan is against the spirit of the liquor act'.(News)
Oct 04, 2006; BYLINE: Lee Rondganger and Karyn Maughan Police are planning to crack down on Shebeens where drugs and alcohol are being...