There are many strange and surprising alcohol facts in states across the US. They largely reflect cultural ambivalence over the proper role of drinking in society. For example, Repeal of National Prohibition (1920-1933) occurred long ago. Yet there are many dry (prohibition) counties in the country.
In fact, almost one of every five U.S. adults today favors making it illegal for anyone to drink alcohol. That’s of any age, any amount, for any reasion. However, not even Prohibition outlawed drinking. Thus, millions did so legally throughout Prohibition. Discover more at What Did Prohibition Prohibit? It Wasn’t Drinking.
You might also find these trivia pages interesting.
About two of every three counties in Alabama are dry. That is, they prohibit the production, distribution and sale of alcohol.
However, Alabama permits the sale of fireworks, tobacco and firearms. And it does so with virtually no restrictions.
For example, there is no state permit required to purchase or carry rifles and shotguns. There is no licensing of owners of rifles or shotguns. And there’s no registration of such deadly weapons. And no state permit is needed to buy a handgun. There is no licensing of handgun owners. Nor any registration of handguns. Even young children can carry and use dangerous firearms. 1
Alabamans apparently view a drink as more dangerous than fireworks, tobacco, or rifles, shotguns and pistols. Is a drink in the hand of an adult more dangerous than a gun in the hand of a child?
There are 83 dry towns and villages in Alaska. 2 Until recently, Fairbanks was a dry town for moose. That is, it was illegal to feed a moose any alcohol! 3
The Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control raided a weekly senior citizens’ garden party. It was within a gated community. Agents seized the alcoholic beverages. They also wrote a citation for selling alcohol without a license. That’s in spite of the fact that no alcohol was sold!
Perhaps the Department has too many officers and too much time on its hands. Or perhaps this over zealous enforcement is simply a reflection of the growing anti-alcohol movement. 4
Temperance members of the Russellville City Council approved a strange motion. It censord any discussion of legalizing alcohol sales during budget sessions. The motion was passed after the city’s Revenue Task Force suggested legalizing alcohol sales.
It appears that the US Constitution’s First Amendment protection of free speech won’t apply to Russellville’s Council. That is, as long as temperance minded officials have their way. 5
The California ABC Act prohibits producers from listing names of retailers or restaurants selling their products. This includes ads or even in newsletters. 6
Servers can be convicted of selling alcohol to a minor if the purchaser uses a false ID to buy it. 7
More lunacy. An award-winning version of Little Red Riding Hood was deemed offensive. So the school board in Culver City struck it from a list recommended books. The problem? The heroine included a bottle of wine in the basket she brought to her grandmother. 8
Colorado law requires that wine be sold in containers of at least 24 ounces. Spirits must be sold in containers of at least a fifth of a gallon. But it also decrees that no alcohol beverage can be stored in hotel minibars in anything larger than miniature containers! 9
Connecticut is the only state in the northeast that hasn’t yet abolished Colonial-era Blue Laws. Those prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sundays. 10
Also, druggists must pay $400.00 each year for a special license. That is, if they want to use alcohol in compounding prescriptions. 11Perhaps that’s why meds are so expensive there.
A traveler through the Delaware Valley in 1753 compiled a list of the drinks he encountered. All but three of the 48 contained alcohol.12
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The District of Columbia decriminalized underage drinking. It makes consumption of alcohol by those under age 21 a civil rather than criminal offense. That law has existed since 1997. However, police had continued to arrest offenders rather than ticket them.
Therefore, a newer law was passed. As a result, police can no longer arrest offenders and give them a criminal record for life.
Don’t plan on using any of the celebratory Champagne bottle sizes in Florida. These are the Methuselahs, Salamanazars, Balthazars, and Nebuchadnezzars. These very traditional Champagne bottle sizes are all illegal in the state. 14
Georgia’s Fulton County Superior Court handed down a major decision. It held the city of Atlanta’s and the state of Georgia’s laws against Sunday bar openings to be unconstitutional. 15
Idaho’s Driver’s Manual misleads license applicants. It states that “The combination of drinking and driving accounts for approximately half of all fatal accidents. Alcohol Kills over 25,000 people a year on US highways.” 16 Not so.
The actual proportion of alcohol-related accidents is about 38%. And the number of deaths is also overstated by over two-thirds. Even worse, the manual converts alcohol-related into “accounts for.” But alcohol-related does not mean caused by alcohol. This is one of the most important alcohol facts in states.
For example, assume a person who has drunk some alcohol is waiting at a stop light. That driver’s car is rear-ended by a completely sober but careless driver. The resulting accident is considered an alcohol-related crash. Of course, alcohol had nothing at all to do with causing it. Visit Alcohol-Related and Alcohol-Caused (They’re Not the Same).
A single alcohol-caused accident is too many. Therefore, we need to continue our progress in reducing these needless tragedies. To learn more visit Drinking and Driving.
MUCH MORE TRIVIA! Visit Alcohol Trivia Resources (& Links to Alcohol Trivia).
Legislators considered a law to lower the maximum legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for driving from .08 down to .06.
Almost one-half of all fatally injured drinking drivers have a BAC of .20 or over. That’s three and one-third times higher than the proposed maximum BAC. Supporters insist that the cut would be only a small step in the right direction. Activists have already begun pushing for reductions down to .04 and .02. 17
It’s illegal in Indiana for liquor stores to sell cold soft drinks. But they can sell soft drinks at room temperature. 18
Iowa has its share of temperance-oriented laws. For example, these.
- It’s illegal to run a “tab.” 19
- A law enforcement officer is having a drink in a bar and an employee pours water down the drain. However, the water is legally considered an alcohol beverage intended for unlawful purposes. 20
- It’s no easier after work. An owner or employee of an alcohol retailer can’t even legally have a drink there after closing for business. 21
An Attorney General of Kansas issued a legal opinion. It was simple. Drinking on an airliner was forbidden by state law while it was over “dry” Kansas. He said that “Kansas goes all the way up and all the way down,” His opinion was widely ridiculed in legal circles. 22 That’s one of the strangest of alcohol facts in states of the union. However, Carrie Nation would probably have been hailed. She by started her hatchet attacks against bars in Kansas.
Bourbon takes its name from Bourbon County in the state. That’s where a Baptist minister first made it in 1789. 23 But a person can be sent to jail for five years for merely sending a bottle of alcohol as a gift to a friend in Kentucky. 24 Yes, even if it’s a bottle of bourbon! Perhaps it’s one of the strangest alcohol facts in states across the country.
Louisiana law prohibits bars and restaurants from displaying any alcohol beverage brand name. That is, if it can be seen from outside. 25
A bill was introduced to reduce the state’s illegal threshold for driving down to .04. That’s one-half the current level. It failed.
The average BAC of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Maine is .18%. That’s four and a half times higher than the proposed limit. 26
Maryland requires that alcohol beverage writers be certified as experts by an agency of the state. That’s before they can receive product samples. It also limits this to three bottles per brand. 27
Maryland law decriminalizes possession or drinking by those under the age of 21. This prevents them from having a criminal record for life. 13
The Pilgrims landed at what is now Plymouth rather than continue sailing. That’s because they were running low on provisions, especially beer. 28
Later, a brewery was one of Harvard College’s first construction projects. That was to ensure a steady supply of beer for the student dining hall. 29 Perhaps that’s one of the most surprising of the alcohol facts in a state.
It’s illegal for a person under 21 to give a gift of alcohol to anyone. Even to the person of legal age. 30
Permitting diners to take home an unfinished bottle of alcohol discourages intoxication. It also promotes moderation. Otherwise, they tend to consume it all before leaving. That’s to prevent “wasting it.” However, this practice is strictly prohibited in the state. 31
Public intoxication is a crime in Pennsylvania but specifically not a crime in Minnesota. 32
Mississippi is uniquely temperance-oriented. It imposed state-wide prohibition in 1907. That was over a dozen years before the rest of the country. It was the very first state to ratify the 18th Amendment to create National Prohibition. The nation rejected of Prohibition through Repeal in 1933. But the state kept its own state-wide prohibition. It did so for another one-third of a century. After that, it specifically “reaffirmed prohibition” when it decided to permit local option regarding alcohol.
Today, almost one-half of the counties in Mississippi are “dry.” They have their own alcohol prohibition within their boundaries. It is even illegal to bring alcohol through a dry county in the state. 33
Anyone under 21 who takes out household trash should be careful in Missouri. If it contains even a single empty alcohol container, the person can be charged with illegal possession of alcohol. 34
Judges doubt the legality of a law in Montana. It punishes parents if their offspring are charged with an alcohol offence. Supreme Court observers believe that courts can’t legally punish parents who have done nothing wrong.
The law resembles an edict passed by the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union. It was during the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. The edict also held parents responsible for the delinquent acts of their children. That law was abolished long ago. 35
A state law prohibits bars from selling beer unless they are also brewing a kettle of soup. 36
Using alcohol in cooking is an essential part of being fully trained to be a professional chef. But the state’s law prohibits alcohol from school grounds. So State Rep. Jane Clemons sponsored a bill. It would enable culinary students to use alcohol in their cooking classes.
The proposed law would provide safeguards to ensure that the alcohol would not be used inappropriately. It would be secured under lock and key when not in use for classes. It would also require parental notice that alcohol would be an ingredient permitted in cooking and baking classes.
The legislation failed. Earlier, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), strongly objected to wine tasting being permitted in college culinary classes. And that was even though students would not swallow any. 37
Princeton University officials confiscated T-shirts bearing slogans sympathetic to playing drinking games. This was in violation of students’ Constitutional rights to free speech.
“This is just censorship of speech, and Princeton… should not be censoring speech.” That, according to Dr. Andrew Appel, professor of computer science. “The confiscation of printed materials before they can be distributed constitutes prior restraint which is a very severe form of censorship.” He emphasized that “Prior restraint of a publication (the T-shirts) is really antithetical to the academic values of a college.” 38
The Belden Tribune reports that alcohol sales to minors are a serious problem throughout the entire state. The editor of the paper was upset. He said “the sheriff should wake up and catch one or two of these lawbreakers and have them hauled up before the court.” They would serve as examples to all others. He also urges parents to provide help to law enforcement authorities. They should report those who are providing alcohol to underage drinkers.
All of this is reported in issues of The Belden Tribune published in 1909. 39
The longest recorded champagne cork flight was 177 feet and 9 inches. It was at Woodbury Vineyards in the state. 40
State law of prohibits serving beer and pretzels at the same time in any bar or restaurant. 42
The French wine, “Fat Bastard,” is sold in states across the US. But Ohio banned its sale within its borders. 43 The state tries to protect children who presumably never watch TV and don‘t have peers.
Ohio also tries to protect its fish. State law prohibits getting a fish drunk. 44
The University of Oklahoma bans any consumption of alcohol in dorms and fraternity houses. That includes students of legal age. “Is this going to stop people from drinking?“ asked a local police officer. “No. You are just displacing the problem somewhere else.” The well-intentioned policy has driven much drinking off campus into uncontrolled locations.
There are other unintended effects as well. Students continue to drink but that the results are different. Instead tripping and falling, students crash their cars.
The University‘s legal responsibility for protecting student safety extends beyond the campus. When the university shifts drinking into uncontrolled environments it increases its legal liability.
One way to reduce problems and liability is to have Good Samaritan or emergency alcohol amnesty programs. These reduce injuries and save lives.
Many colleges prefer to provide safe drinking environments on campus. There potential harm can be reduced and students can be more protected. Many schools have also established social norms programs that reduce both the consumption and the abuse of alcohol. 45
The tax on wine and spirits is called the Jamestown Flood tax. It was imposed in 1936 to raise funds to help the city of Jamestown rebuild from a devastating flood. The city of Jamestown quickly rebuilt and recovered. However, the tax still continues. It currently costs taxpayers of the state over $160,000,000.00 each year. 46
Rhode Island never ratified the 18th Amendment establishing National Prohibition. 47
The Tennessee Attorney General’s office issued a legal opinion. According to it, some state rules about alcohol advertising are unconstitutional. That is, they violate First Amendment free speech rights.
In spite of this official legal opinion, the state continues enforcing its apparently unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. 49
Of Texas’ 254 counties, 79 are still completely dry eight decades after the repeal of Prohibition. Many of the remaining counties are “moist” or partially dry. Some permit one form of alcohol beverage but not another. Some prohibit on-premise consumption (except for private clubs). Others permit (believe it or not) on-premise but no off-premise drinking. And some have other strange variations, often directly across the street from each other. 50
Learn the fascinating story behind Impact, Texas. The state’s alcohol laws and regulations can be very confusing.
The county in Texas with the highest DWI arrests among drivers is “dry.” That is, prohibits the sale of alcohol. 51
Texas state law prohibits taking more than three sips of beer at a time while standing. 52
Utah apparently ties with Mississippi for temperance laws. Here are some examples.
- Don’t swallow in Utah! Wine used in wine tastings in the state must not be swallowed! 53
- There are no ordinary drinking venues in Utah. Full alcohol service is available only to dues-paying members of private social clubs or a limited number of restaurants. However, they can’t advertise, display, or mention the availability of alcohol. 54
- It’s illegal in the state to advertise drink prices, alcohol brands, or to show a “drinking scene.” Also, it’s illegal to promote happy hours or to advertise free food. For restaurants, it’s illegal to furnish alcohol beverage lists unless a customer requests one. 55
Vermont considered lowering the minimum legal drinking age to 18. The governor “agrees that if 18 is the age at which all citizens are bestowed full rights and privileges of US citizenship it ought to be the legal drinking age.”
However, in retaliation, the federal government would deny the state about $10 million dollars annually. 56
George Washington was the largest distiller of whiskey in the new country during the late 1700s. In 1798, the year before his death, Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey. It produced a profit of $7,500. That was an enormous sum of money over 200 years ago. 57
A state law prohibits alcohol breath test readings from being barred from court. Yet they might well be invalid or incorrect. The law makes it easier to get questionable, possibly inaccurate, breath-test estimates admitted into court. 58
Apparently, prosecutors want to increase their conviction rates. And that’s regardless of the guilt or innocence of those suspected of driving while under the influence.
Bars in the state can advertise alcohol prices, but not brand names. 59
An adult under 21 married to one age 21 or older can legally drink with the spouse.
However, state Rep. John Ainsworth doesn’t like the idea at all. He has called for elimination the right of conjugal drinking. 60
References: Alcohol Facts in States
1. Alabama ABC Board web site; Code of Alabama, title 11.
2. Burton, G. and Baird, J. Liquor a contentious, complicated cocktail in Utah politics, AP, Aug 5, 2001.
3. Fairbanks Daily News Miner, cited in www.funtrivia.com
4. Alcohol Agents Raid Senior Citizens’ Garden Party
5. Censorship by Temperance Officials
6. Mead, J. The Wine Curmudgeon, Wine Trader T(3), 1999, 7-10.
7. California Alcohol Control Act (25660).
8. Barr, A. Drink: A Social History of America. NY: Carroll & Graf, 1999, p. 275.
9. Prial, F. Strange But True Tales From the Annals of Drinking Laws. New York Times, March 11, 1998. See also www.marksquires.com/wine-fp.htm
10. Brundage, B. Booze-buying blues: Connecticut’s lonely stance in the Northeast against changing its pesky no-liquor-on-Sundays blue laws. Fairfield County Weekly, July 21, 2005.
11. General Statutes of Connecticut (Title 3, sec. 30-36).
12. Grimes, W. Straight Up or On the Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1993, pp. 44-45.
13. DC Decriminalized Underage Drinking
14. Florida Statutes
15. Blue laws Unconstitutional
16. Idaho DMV. Idaho Driver’s Manual. Boise: Idaho DMV, 2001, section 8, page 4. See Drivers’ Manuals Fail Accuracy Test
18. Chap. 10, Liquor Dealer Permits. IC 7.1-3-10-5, Sec. 5.
19. Iowa Code (123, 49-2-c).
20. Iowa Code (123.120).
21. Iowa Code (123.49-2-b-k), Iowa Admin Code (1850). Good for alcohol facts in states.
22. Hendricks, M. Liquor laws live up to state motto. Kansas City Star, 4-7-03, B1. (The state’s motto is “To the stars.”)
23. Lender, M. and Martin, J. Drinking in America. NY: Free Press, 1982, p. 33. Grimes, pp. 52-53.
24. Mead, J, The Wine Curmudgeon, Wine Trader. Q(6).
25. Protecting Public from Seeing Alcoholic Beverage Brand Names
26. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .04 Proposed
27. Mead, Q(6).
28. Eames, A. Secret Life of Beer. Little-Known Facts. Pownal, VT: Storey, 1995, p. 17.
29. Furnas, J. The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum. NY: Putnam’s Sons, 1965, p. 20. Great for alcohol facts in states across the U.S.
30. MI Liquor Control Code (436.1207
31. MI Liquor Control Code (436.2021).
32. PA Crime Code (Title 18). MN Statutes 1999 (340A.902).
33. MS Code of 1972, Title 67, Alcoholic Beverages; Prohibition. Encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com. Salter, S. Double taxes on your single bourbon. Clarion-Ledger, April 18, 2004.
34. MO Revised Statutes (311.325).
35. Legality of Alcohol Law Questioned
37. Alcohol Needed for High School Education
38. Zero Tolerance at Princeton
39. Underage Drinking Epidemic
43. Click, J. Bastards are Here! Wine Trader, T(3), 1999, 57-58.
45. New College Alcohol Drinking Policy
46. State liquor tax has origins in 1936 Jamestown flood. AP, 11-25-01.)
47. www.absolutetrivia.com/ Great source of alcohol facts in states of the union.
49. Alcohol ads, Free Speech, and Constitutional Rights
50. Mead, J. The wine curmudgeon. Wine Trader, P(1), n.d., p. 8.
51. AP, May 26, 1999.
53. Utah Admin Code. See winebusiness.com/Html/MonthlyArticle.cfm?Ald=105
54. Alcohol restrictions concern Olympic officials. (www.jointogether.org/sa/wire/news/reader/jtml?Object_ID=2593210)
55. AP, Aug 6, 2001.
56. Call for Lower Drinking Age in Vermont
57. George Washington: Major Distiller of Whiskey
58. Unreliable Alcohol Breath Tests in DWI/DUI Court Cases
59. Burton, G. and Baird, J. Liquor a contentious, complicated cocktail in Utah politics, AP, August 5, 2001.