But like American speakeasies during prohibition in the USA, these places are oases in a desert of official prudery.
After falling out of style, they're back and ready to compete with speakeasies from New Orleans to NYC.
Maybe the machine covered only the area around the various banks, speakeasies, bars and horse parlors.
"unlicensed saloon," 1889 (in New York "Voice"), from speak + easy; so called from the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police and neighbors. The word gained wide currency in U.S. during Prohibition (1920-1932). In early 19c. Irish and British dialect, a speak softly shop meant "smuggler's den."
A cheap saloon, esp an illegal or after-hours place: It had been a speakeasy once/ All they give you in these speaks is smoke/ one thing that puts a speako over
[1889+; Samuel Hudson, a journalist, says in a 1909 book that he used the term in Philadelphia in 1889 after having heard it used in Pittsburgh by an old Irish woman who sold liquor clandestinely to her neighbors and enjoined them to ''spake asy''; hence related to early 1800s Irish and British dialect spake-aisy or speak softly shop, ''smugglers' den'']