For those who want to know everything.

Where does 86’d come from?

86 the soup, we’re out!  86 the special, it’s not right.  86 burgers, we’re out of buns.  86 the drunk guy at the bar, he’s startin’ fights!

86 everywhere!  It’s an effective term, but where does it come from? Answering that is tricky; there are many opinions and stories. Choose which one you believe to be most likely from the list below which contains theories and maybe some facts.

Photo from

1.      Chumley’s, 86 Bedford Street, New York, NY (Established 1922, closed in 2007 from a chimney collapse).

Theory/story 1.  When Chumley’s had a naughty, rambunctious or other unsavory patron they would be thrown out the door…onto 86 Bedford Street.

Theory/story 2.  During Prohibition, sometimes the cops would call ahead to inform the owner or a raid (nice cops, huh?), so the owner would tell everyone to scram! onto 86 Bedford street.

2.     The Soup Kitchens Of The Great Depression

During the Great Depression the soup kitchens and bread lines would serve soup from a standard soup cauldron that held 85 cups.  So, the unlucky 86th person would not receive any…all out of soup my friend, no soup for you.

3.     Soda Jerks

“They” say that soda fountain clerks had a very extensive password communicating system, using numbers to convey things quickly.  One of the numbers, “86” meant they were out of xxx item.  Another one was “98”, meaning “watch out, the manager is one the prowl”.

4.     The Old West: Lookin’ Out For The Ladies…And The Drunks

Most whiskey was 100 proof but there was 86 proof available for the lovely and dainty drinkin’ ladies.  If a cowboy got too rowdy, he would be switched to the ladies 86 proof.

5.     Article 86 of an old New York State Liquor Code stated…

…if someone is visibly intoxicated, bartenders were forbidden to serve them anymore liquor.

6.     Delmonico’s Restaurant, 56 Beaver Street,  New York, NY

A very popular house rib-eye steak, number 86 on the menu, was often not available due to it being sold out from popularity.

7.     This just in!  I have just received a great e-mail from someone with a bit more information about where 86 may come from. 

 “I always heard 86′ came from when you get buried, the hole they dig is 8′ deep and 6′ long. Also during a military burial at sea… they have to be in at least 86′ deep water.”  Thanks Paul!

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  1. Here in Las Vegas, we say the term came from the old mob days. They would bury someone 8 miles out and 6ft deep.

    • 8 miles out and 6 feet deep…I wonder how many “86’d” mob enemies are out in the desert. It’s gotta be a ton!

  2. You have remarked very interesting details! ps nice web site.

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