Bar Trivia: Pubs, Taverns, Liquor Stores, & Other Retailers

Bar trivia is fun! Discover fascinating trivia about bars, taverns, bartenders, liquor stores and others purveyors of alcoholic beverages.

Then share your discoveries of bar trivia with friends and family!

Bar Trivia

  • bar triviaWant to visit the longest bar in the world? It’s in the New Bulldog bar in Rock Island, Illinois. Bring all your friends. There’s plenty of room. It’s 684 feet long.1 That’s about 208.5 meters.  
  • A bar is now in the New York City building that once housed the headquarters of the National Temperance Society.2
  • The first recruiting station for the U.S. Marines was in a bar.3

          Former Bartenders

  • Chevy Chase, Bill Cosby, Tom Arnold, Sandra Bullock, Bruce Willis and Kris Kristofferson are all former bartenders.4
  • Bars in West Virginia can legally advertise prices of alcoholic beverages. But never the names of the brands.5
  • In some states of the U.S. it is illegal to place the word “liquor” on a storefront.6    bar trivia
  • Abraham Lincoln sold liquor before becoming president. His liquor store license is dated 1833. It’s on display in the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, Kentucky.7
  • Liquor stores in Indiana may not sell cold soft drinks. But they may sell unrefrigerated soft drinks.8 Of course!?

           Bars in Louisiana

  • Bars in Louisiana may not legally show any alcohol brand name visible from outside the bar.9 For an interesting violation of this prohibition of free speech, see Protecting Public from Seeing Alcoholic Beverage Brand Names.
  • Nebraska state law prohibits bars from selling beer unless they are also simmering a pot of soup.10
  • North Dakota state law prohibits bars from serving beer and pretzels at the same time.11
  • Some states and other jurisdictions in the US
    • Require that the inside of bars be visible from the outside. Others specifically prohibit that.
    • Require that food be available wherever drinks are served. Other make that illegal.
    • Require that anyone drinking stand at a bar. Others require that they be seated while drinking.12
  • It’s illegal in Saskatchewan, Canada, to drink alcohol while watching exotic dancers.13
  • California law in the 1940s prohibited serving gays alcohol.14

           High Status

  • During part of the American Colonial period, owners of taverns had higher social status than ministers.15
  • In Texas it’s illegal to take more than three sips of beer at a time while standing in a bar.16
  • The state of Utah prohibits ordinary public bars.17
  • California Alcohol Beverage Control prohibits the display of alcoholic beverages within five feet of a cash register. That’s at any store that sells both alcohol and motor fuel.18
  • It’s illegal to run a bar “tab” in Iowa.19
  • An officer of the law sees a bar owner or employee pour water down the sink. The water can be legally considered an alcoholic beverage intended for unlawful purposes.20
  • A bartender in California can be convicted of selling to a minor if the purchaser uses a false or altered ID to buy the alcohol.21  
  • It’s illegal for a bar owner or employee in Iowa to have a drink there after closing for business.22
  • Most American colonies required towns to license taverns. Not doing so could result in a fine.23
  • Colonial taverns often had to be near the village church or meetinghouse.24  
  • The major tavern of a Colonial American town was where church services and court sessions were often held.25 You wanted bar trivia!
  • His father’s tavern is where President Martin Van Buren was born.26

          The Real McCoy

Bill McCoy
  • Origin of “the real McCoy”? William “Bill” McCoy was a bootlegger. He sold only high quality imported alcohol. If he sold it, it was “the real McCoy.”27
  • Another theory for “the real McCoy” is that it comes from a brand of whiskey. In 1856, “the real McKay” appeared. It referred to the McKay brand of whisky produced in Scotland. The company adopted it as an advertising slogan in 1870. In the U. S., it became “the real McCoy.”28      

           No Free Lunch

  • “There’s no free lunch.” Pennsylvania bars used to give free sandwiches to those who bought beer to drink with them. The state passed a law in 1917 outlawing this. Some bars then began to sell sandwiches and give away the beer.29
  • Liquor stores are “package stores” in the U.S. They sell “package goods.” The alcohol is placed into bags or “packages.” This is because of  laws that require alcohol bottles not be visible in public.30
  • A well-stocked bar contains the ingredients to make 17,864,392,788 different cocktails. That’s according to the famous writer, H. L. Mencken.31
  • Many bars often free non-alcoholic drinks to Designated Drivers. Just ask.32
  • To enter a speakeasy a person whispered a code word to a bouncer.33
  • In New York City about thirty thousand (30,000) speakeasies sprang up during Prohibition.34.
  • A Los Angeles jury in a bootlegging case was itself put on trial after it drank the evidence. The jurors argued that they had to determine if the evidence contained alcohol. They said it did. The alleged bootlegger had to be released because the jury drank the evidence.35
  • Centuries ago in England, bar patrons signaled for refills by blowing a whistle baked into their ceramic cups. When people went bars they really did “wet their whistle.”36

Trivial Note on Trivia

Trivia is the plural of the Latin trivium. More than one bar trivium become bar trivia. So, “It’s illegal to run a bar “tab” in Iowa” is a bar trivium. But this collection is bar trivia. So, should it be “Bar trivia is fun!”? Or should it be “Bar trivia are fun!”?

Endnotes for Bar Trivia

1  Yenne, B., and Debolski, T. The Ultimate Book of Beer Trivia, pp. 101-102.

2  ________., pp. 89-90.

3  Duane Flint, U.S. Marine Corps, pers comm.


5  Burton, G. and Baird, J. Liquor a contentious, complicated cocktail in Utah politics, AP, August 5, 2011.

6  Spencer, D. To See or Not to See: Broown Baggin’. The Hill, June 20, 2011.

7  Museum details history of bourbon. Post-Gaz, April 23, 2017.

8  IN State Code. Chap. 10, Liquor Dealer Permits. IC 7.1-3-10-5, Sec. 5.

9  Rose, C. Raid in the shade. Times-Picayune, June 23, 2015.

10  Crazy Laws in Nebraska.    

11  Beer Trivia

12  Heath, D. Drinking Occasions, p. 53.

13  Fairbanks Daily News Miner, cited in


15  Krout, J. The Origins of Prohibition, p. 44.

16  Texas Laws

17  Albert Floor, pers comm.

18  California Alcohol Beverage Control Act (23790.5-d). [Link works.]

19  IA Code (123, 49-2-c).

20  IA Code (123.120).

21  CA Alcohol Control Act (25660). [Link works.]

22  IA Code (123.49-2-b-k). IA Admin Code (18-50).

23  Prendergast, M. A History of Alcohol Problem Prevention Efforts. In: Holder, H. (Ed.) Control Issues in Alcohol Abuse Prevention. Pp. 25-52.

24 __________., p. 27.

25  __________., pp. 25-52.

26  Burns, E. The Spirits of America, p. 27.

27  Lender, M. and Martin, J. Drinking in America, p. 144.


29  Elliott, P. 100 Proof, p. 115.


31  Grimes, W. Straight Up or on the Rocks, p. 28.

32  Informal research.

33  Erdoes, R. 1000 Remarkable Facts about Booze, p. 188.

34  Jennings, P. World News Tonight. ABC-TV, Jan 29. 1999.

35  New York Times, Jan 7, 1928.