Weird Drinking Laws in our 50 States
In a country where it’s easier to ship a gun across the country than a 12-pack of beer (from our point of view), it got us interested in obscure drinking laws that are in effect throughout our 50 states. And let us tell you, there are some strange ones! So, the next time your Craft Beer Club shipment arrives, you may want to keep some of these in mind. Share them with a friend for a good laugh and just maybe your friend could be lucky enough to try one of the craft beers from your monthly shipment.
If you’re trying to find any beer bottles larger than 16oz, you won’t have any luck in Alabama. Any beer bottles larger than 16oz are not allowed in the state, plus you’ll have to choose your county wisely as there are still many “dry counties” throughout the state. Oh, and provocative or profane labels are strictly prohibited.
In Alaska, it’s actually illegal to be drunk in a bar. Yes, you read correctly! According to the state laws, you cannot enter a bar if you are already drunk, and you cannot stay if you become drunk. Along with that, it is also illegal to give beer to a moose…for any of you who dare to get close enough.
Surprisingly, Arizona has drive-through liquor stores. Of course you cannot consume said alcohol in the car, but still. Also, anyone who becomes intoxicated is only allowed to stay on the premises of the establishment for 30 minutes - long enough for someone to come pick them up.
Get ready to be schooled! In Arkansas if you are older than 18 but younger than 21 and you are caught with alcohol, you will not only get a fine but you’ll also have to write a themed essay on liquor, wine or beer.
Apparently in California, you cannot display alcohol within 5ft of a store entrance or within 5ft of a cash register if the shop also sells motor fuel. That is, unless it is presented in a secured cooler.
I’m sorry to say it but your legal rights of riding a horse while intoxicated stop at the state lines of Colorado. Interestingly, a horse is considered a ‘vehicle’ in the state and subsequently, you can get a DUI if found driving a horse drunk.
You may have a hard time stocking up on beer in Connecticut. In restaurants, taverns, and cafes you are only allowed to buy up to 4 liters of beer, and it must be for off-premise consumption.
If only you could turn water into wine in Delaware! Alcohol sales are not allowed on big holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, so you better plan accordingly. On top of that, alcohol is not allowed to be served in clubs where there is also dancing.
In Florida, alcoholic beverages are prohibited during hurricanes. Ok, it makes sense if establishments are not open to serve you during a hurricane, but not even at home?
Depending on where you are in the state, public drinking may be allowed, however it must not be seen! We’re not sure how much you want to bank on that one. Athens-Clarke County, GA is evidently more strict, making it illegal for any businesses with massage services to also serve alcohol. On top of that the county does not allow 2 for 1 beer specials.
You do the crime, but your parents do the time. Hawaii will give DUIs to minors who are drinking and driving, however, their parent or guardian will be the one who is required to go to an educational alcohol abuse class. It is also illegal to have more than one alcoholic beverage in front of you
A few states, including Idaho, do not allow liquor licenses to be given out to more than 1 person for every 1,500 people. If you’re looking to acquire a liquor license be prepared to wait on a very long waiting list or pay a hefty price if purchasing someone else’s license privately.
Just recently, in 2017, Illinois raised the penalty from a business offense fine to a class 4 felony to import 45 liters or more of liquor into the state without a license to do so. That means if you bring more than 108 liters of wine or 118 liters of beer into the state without going through the proper hoops, you’re looking at a minimum of 1 year in jail.
In Indiana it is illegal for grocery stores and convenience stores to sell cold beer - that right is saved for liquor stores only. Additionally, an establishment cannot sell individual drinks without also having a food service available at all times.
No more “put it on my tab” and blissfully walking away, because in Iowa, you are not allowed to leave a running tab at a bar. It looks like you’ll need to pay upfront for each drink you order! Plus, if you’re a Minister, Iowa requires you to get a permit before taking any alcohol across state lines. If that’s not picky enough, all boxes that are utilized for picking beer hops must be precisely 36in long.
Prohibition ended in 1933...right? Kansas might have missed the memo. While the amendment was repealed in 1933, Kansas continued a state-wide ban on alcohol until 1948. Additionally, residents and visitors of Kansas could not buy a drink “on-premise” at a bar or restaurant until 1987.
In Kentucky it is illegal to sell alcohol on election day, unless it’s a special election. And for a state largely known for its bourbon, unfortunately you are not permitted to drink at the distillery if it’s located a ‘dry county’. But you can still get your fair share by venturing along the Bourbon Trail.
Drive-thrus are allowed to serve alcohol in Louisiana and the state considers them to be closed containers. But, that only applies as long as the straw has not been put through the lid of the drink!
Establishments are not allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays before 9am. Unless, that is, if St. Patrick’s Day happens to fall on a Sunday, then alcohol is allowed to be sold as early as 6am. Green beer at 6am anyone?
For us mere civilians, there is a limit to how much alcohol can be brought back into the state of Maryland. However, active military returning home to Maryland can bring limitless alcohol back with them.
Sadly, for whatever reason, Massachusetts holds a grudge against Happy Hour. Not only is that upsetting, but public drinking games are also not allowed. And just to rub it in, Massachusetts also has a restriction on how many liquor licenses can be given to restaurants and bars.
Now this one seems fair…bars and restaurants in Michigan are not allowed to advertise that they sell “pints” of beer. And before you get too upset, they’re not allowed to advertise it unless they are serving all 16 ounces! If drinkers are suspicious they’re being shorted, they can file a complaint.
Minnesota seems a bit more laid back than some of the others listed here. There are no alcohol sales allowed on Sundays and if you’re in the market for spirits with a higher percentage of alcohol, you’ll have to try your luck across the border.
Don’t quote us on this, but Mississippi is said to have no “open container” laws for drivers. But don’t go crazy, it only applies if the driver stays under the (0.08%) national legal limit.
In Missouri, simply put, no one is permitted to put drugs into alcoholic drinks, which seems like a good one to keep. But oddly enough, in Natchez, MO it is “unlawful to provide beer or other intoxicants to elephants” and in St. Louis, MS it is “illegal to sit on the curb of any city street and drink beer from a bucket.” Good to know.
Montana is the 3rd state on our list that has liquor license restrictions, which are given out based on a lottery system. If that route seems too tedious, there are ways to privately buy them from another establishment, but they often go for a very high price.
You might want to think twice about trying anything more than sweet talking the bartender for a free drink! In Nebraska, its Liquor Control Commission Rules and Regulations, chapter 6, section 019.01F1, makes it illegal to have any physical contact or any PDA with a bartender.
Oh Nevada, home to bars that can stay open 24/7, permitted open container laws in Las Vegas and where it is not a crime to be drunk in public (it is considered to be a health problem rather than a crime), just the fact that you are ALLOWED to do these that makes it obscure.
On a somewhat darker note, New Hampshire set upon itself to make drinking and/or picnics illegal in graveyards. Makes total sense…
Now New Jersey really hits you where it hurts! Apparently, if you get a DUI, not only will you pay the price but you are also not allowed to get a personalized license plate for your car.
In New Mexico, you should probably stay away from drinking and driving a boat. While a BWI is a well-known offense throughout the country, in New Mexico, not only does it refer to operating any vessel, but also “includes using water skis, wakeboard, kneeboards, or similar devices”.
Booze can be a finicky thing to acquire in New York. Firstly, can you only purchase alcohol from specific stores, which does not include general stores. Secondly, alcohol cannot be sold before noon or after 9pm. And thirdly, if you are thinking of opening a liquor store, make sure you live close since they must be owned by a single person who must also live within a specific distance from their store.
North Carolina and Massachusetts seem to be in cahoots with each other. Happy Hour is not allowed within the state as well as any special alcohol sales or gimmicks. Additionally, the governor, if they so please, can decide to stop all selling, transporting and manufacturing of alcohol.
We’re not sure why or how this law came to be, but in North Dakota it is illegal to serve beer and pretzels at the same time - or so the legand goes. And for you extreme coupon-ers out there, your skills to find the best deal won’t work here. North Dakota has forbidden coupons to be used when purchasing alcohol.
Again, why or how these situations became laws are a bit unclear, but in Ohio it is illegal to give alcohol to a fish. But we did not find specifics about in which context this pertains to, so take that one with a grain of salt. However, what is more unclear is this one: “no [alcohol] advertisement shall represent, portray or make any reference to Santa Claus…”. Wait, what?
As long as you are in Oklahoma, you can only purchase alcohol in licensed liquor stores and those select stores cannot sell a cold beer with more than 4% alcohol. Sorry to say but you’ll have to settle with room temperature until you get home.
Variety is the spice of life in Oregon. Evidently, any location with a liquor license must also serve at least 5 different food items. But hey, this just means you’ll have at least 5 choices of what to pair with your beer.
Pennsylvania also has limits on liquor licenses and will make you run around to various different stores if you want to purchase wine, spirits and beer. But interestingly, in Newton, PA, allegedly a man cannot buy alcohol without the written consent of his wife.
Fun fact: Rhode Island was one of two states that did not ratify the 18th amendment! But as ahead of the times as they were back then, the state, for some reason, does not allow any advertising for Happy Hour. Happy Hour is allowed to occur, but it appears that it cannot be broadcasted.
In line with Kentucky, South Carolina doesn’t allow alcohol to be sold on election day. Additionally the state has a “Frances Willard Day”. On the 4th Friday of October, all public schools are required to teach their students about Frances Willard; a major player in passing Prohibition laws and educating on “evils of intemperance”.
Thank goodness South Dakota did not follow suit when North Dakota criminalized serving beer with pretzels! Nonetheless you may want to think twice about mixing yourself a cocktail. Evidently in Deadwood, SD it is illegal to mix various alcoholic beverages without a permit to do so.
While Kentucky is known for its bourbon, Tennessee is known for its Jack Daniels. What’s funny though, is that the Jack Daniels distillery is located within a ‘dry county’ - making it illegal to drink the whiskey anywhere nearby. Recently, however, this was changed so visitors to the distillery are allowed very small sips on the Jack Daniel’s facility tours.
In Texas, you may have to plan ahead if you want to purchase or be served alcohol on the weekends. Beer and wine can be sold from 7am - midnight on work days, 7am - 1pm on Saturdays and only from noon - midnight on Sundays. However, the ABV must be under 17% to be sold on Sundays.
Utah has a few that are worth mentioning, first being the “Zion Curtain”. Bartenders in restaurants that have opened after 2012 are required to mix drinks out of sight behind the Zion Curtain. But this does not apply to bars or clubs. If your friend wants a drink, they better come with you to the bar! One person is not allowed to order double the amount of drinks. It is legal to have a drink in a restaurant, but you must also order food at the same time. Lastly, it is illegal to serve or sell alcohol in an area that the governor deems in an emergency.
Before 1986 the legal drinking age in Vermont was 18. However, that changed when the government threatened to withdraw their federal funding unless the state raised the legal drinking age to 21.
In Virginia, while Happy Hour is legal, the state has very tight rules on what can be said about it publicly. Bars are allowed to say they have a Happy Hour but are not allowed to post pricing anywhere outside of the establishment. Businesses are also not allowed to call it anything except “Happy Hour” - sorry, Virginia won’t put up with any of your cleaver puns.
No fun is to be had without the permission from the proper authorities. In Washington it is illegal for businesses with liquor licenses to play music, have dancing or other forms of entertainment without first getting permission from the ‘proper’ authorities. It is also a criminal act to destroy a beer bottle or cask.
In West Virginia bars are technically illegal, if you don’t also serve food. It is also illegal to bring more than 10 gallons of alcohol into the state for personal use.
The state has had some back and forth when it comes to the legal drinking age. However, if a properly licensed establishment allows it, a parent or guardian is allowed to purchase alcohol for their child in a bar, regardless of the child’s age.
If you’re not trying to go to jail for up to a year, then you better not let the authorities find you drunk in a mine. Not only that, but it is illegal to do business with an intoxicated person, women cannot drink an alcoholic beverage while standing within 5 ft of a bar, nor are residents or visitors allowed to ski while drunk. Whew!
Again, this is a list of the most bizarre or outdated rules surrounding alcohol in our 50 states. In no way is this meant to be a comprehensive list of laws for each state!