Temperance was one of the great liberal movements of the 19th century and one manifestation of this was the coffee-house movement. Begun in England, many, including some Boston Unitarians, sought to bring more temperance coffee houses to the United States. This from a pamphlet compiled by James Freeman Clarke towards that end called:
"Coffee Houses and Coffee Palaces in England"
An association of friends interested, like myself, in establishing coffee-houses in Boston as one means of promoting temperance, have requested me to print for their use an account of this movement in Great Britain...[the bulk of the essay contains extracts from English Pamphlets on the subject including the following on the purpose of the coffee houses]
"The evils of intemperance, especially among laboring men and their families, are so great that every method should be tried to prevent them. Thus far, and at present, two practical plans — one the Pledge of Total Abstinence, the other a Prohibitory Law — have mostly absorbed the interest of the friends of temperance. A portion of the community are not satisfied with either of these methods, and there is a large amount of intemperance not met by them. If you could induce every one to abstain entirely from intoxicating drink, or if you could absolutely and entirely prohibit its sale, you would no doubt put an end to intemperance. But neither of these results seems near at hand. Meantime there is a large class of hard-working men and women who want a little pleasure, a little excitement, a bright half-hour in a dreary life. They go to the drinking saloons because they can find these pleasures. There, they find light, warmth, society, and the stimulus of liquor. In such places habits of intemperance are often formed...It was to meet this state of things that societies were formed in England and Scotland. They were incorporated with sufficient capital, and opened coffee public houses with rooms as bright, warm, and attractive as the gin palaces.
In this country, little has thus far been done. In Philadelphia, one or more coffee-houses have been established, and are now attractive and self-supporting. In New York, the coffee-houses have been suspended, owing to causes which are believed to be temporary. The coffee-house in Boston, recently opened at 851 Washington Street, has met with such success that the " Oriental Coffee House Company " are now proposing to establish five others in different parts of the city. But many more will be necessary. With two thousand drinking-saloons licensed by the city government, we want at least fifty or a hundred bright and pleasant coffee-houses, to present better attractions to those who need some place of cheerful and innocent resort.
(This description of the Oriental Coffee House Company in Boston, from: "A DIRECTORY of Charitable and Beneficent Organizations OF BOSTON, 1914:
ORIENTAL COFFEE-HOUSE COMPANY (incor. 1881). Casino, 985 Washington st.; Alhambra, 11 Green .st. Open all the time, day and night. Both connected by telephone. Aims to substitute the coffee-house for the liquor saloon. Philanthropic in purpose, but purely business-like in method. Provides coffee at 2, 4, and 6 cents per cup, and meals at low prices. Reading, smoking, pool, and billiard rooms. Betting not allowed.)