Weird alcohol laws exist across the US. They often reflect the effects of our long and powerful the temperance movement. Many are also a result from conflicting economic interests. For example, reducing competition.
I. States & DC
As a result, states and other jurisdictions in the US often have conflicting laws.
For instance, some require that the interior of public drinking establishments be visible from the street. On the other hand, others specifically prohibit that.
Some insist that food be available wherever people are drinking. Yet others prohibit that. And some require that anyone drinking stand at a bar. Whereas others mandate that they sit while drinking.
This listing includes not only weird alcohol laws but some that are reasonable but very unusual.
Have fun with these weird alcohol laws. Then share your favorites with family and friends!
I. States & DC
- Neon signs may not advertise alcohol.
- Beer must be sold at room temperature.
- No beer may be consumed in private clubs.
- Beer of the month clubs are illegal.
- Student teachers may not be intoxicated
You may think these are the most weird alcohol laws of all. But just wait until you see ones in other states….
A brewery can only pour 36 ounces of beer per person per day. Nor may it offer music, dancing, or games.
It’s also illegal to become visibly intoxicated in a bar.
It’s not illegal simply to be drunk in public. (However, people can be arrested for disorderly conduct if they are being disruptive or offensive.)
Arizona law permits drive-through liquor stores.
People who become intoxicated in a bar or restaurant may be allowed to stay there for 30 minutes. That is so someone can come to pick them up.
Only wines produced in Arkansas may be sold in grocery stores there. (This may be unconstitutional. That is because it discriminates against out-of-state wine. Similar laws have been struck down by the US Supreme Court.)
It’s also illegal to sell any alcohol any time on Sundays anywhere in Arkansas.
Minors convicted of underage drinking must pay a fine and write an essay about alcohol.
It’s illegal to display alcohol within five feet of a cash register if the store also sells motor fuel.
Want to get your growler (container) refilled with a different beer? Then a new label must cover the growler’s old label. It must include the name of the brewery, the name of the beer, and other specific information.
Police can arrest anyone for selling alcohol to a minor. And that’s even if the purchaser uses a false or altered ID.
Ladies’ night discounts are illegal. That is because they’re gender-based price discrimination.
The state appears to violate the First Amendment free speech rights of alcohol producers. Specifically, it prohibits them from listing the names of retailers or restaurants that sell their products. And that includes in advertising or even in newsletters.
State law requires that wine be sold in containers of at least 24 ounces. Spirits must be in containers at least a fifth of a gallon. But it also states that these beverages when sold in hotel minibars can’t be in anything larger than miniature containers!
It is illegal to buy any alcohol after 9:00 pm.
It’s illegal to sell liquor in city halls. That’s good, because another law says town records can’t be stored where alcohol is sold!
Druggists in the state must pay $400.00 each year for a special license. That is, if they want to use alcohol in compounding prescriptions.
No alcoholic beverage can be sold on Sundays except between noon and 8 p.m.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Bars may not use anything related to religious holidays or symbols to promote business. This includes promoting drinks by referring to Santa Claus. Apparently Santa’s Butt beer would be illegal.
Traditional large celebratory champagne bottle sizes are all illegal. Specifically, the Methuselahs, Salamanazars, Balthazars and Nebuchadnezzars.
Apparently, Florida legislators think size matters.
Champagne Bottle Sizes 53
Speaking of size. It is legal to sell alcoholic cider in bottles that hold 32 ounces. But not in those that hold 36 or 64 ounces. Yet it’s also legal to sell it in in bottles that hold a gallon or more.
State law permits diners to take a partly-finished bottle of wine home with them. However, they may do so only if they’ve ordered and consumed a meal. That meal must include an entree, a vegetable or salad, bread, and a beverage.
Two questions. Is this simply a tricky way to get people to eat more broccoli? And also, must people eat all of their broccoli to take their wine bottle home?
It’s illegal to sell wine in bottles that are more than one gallon, but less than 5.12 gallons.
There is no state law against drinking in public.
It’s illegal to order more than one drink at a time in Hawaii. So you can’t order one for your friend. Nor can you consume your single drink on any beach in the state.
Infused alcohol is alcohol in which botanicals such as fruit or spices have been soaked. Although very popular, these are illegal in Idaho. Thus, both infusions and barrel-aged cocktails are unavailable in the state.
In Twin Falls, you can buy a rifle on election day, but not a shot. That is, a shot of your favorite spirit.
The state also prohibits “happy hour.”
It’s illegal to bring 45 liters or more of alcoholic beverage into the state without a license to do so. The punishment for doing so is at least one year in prison.
State law requires places that sell individual drinks to offer soup, sandwiches, milk, coffee and soft drinks.
It’s illegal for liquor stores to sell cold soft drinks. However, they may sell them at room temperature.
If a bar employee pours water down the drain, law enforcement can consider it an illegal alcohol beverage. And prosecutors may do so as well.
An owner of a venue selling alcohol can’t legally have a drink there after closing for business. And this also applies to all employees.
Don’t plan on running a “tab” in Iowa. That is because it’s illegal.
These seem to be nonsensical, screwey, and totally weird alcohol laws!
A retail liquor store licensee must
- Have been a United States citizen for 10 years.
- Be at least 21 years old.
- Have been a resident of Kansas for four years.
- Never have been convicted of a felony, a crime of moral turpitude, or
- a liquor law violation.
- Not be in law enforcement.
- Never have had a liquor store license revoked.
Also, the licensee’s spouse must meet the same qualifications!
State law prohibits anyone under 21 from sending a gift of alcoholic beverage to anyone, even age 21 or over, in Kentucky. The penalty for doing so can be prison for up to five years. That’s even if it’s a bottle of Kentucky’s finest bourbon!
Open alcohol containers are illegal
Drive-through stores are allowed to serve alcohol. The law says a container is closed if the straw has not been put through the lid.
The law also prohibits bars or restaurants from displaying any alcohol brand name if it can be seen from outside.
Bars may not permit any drinking games. So forget about beer pong.
Maine also prohibits alcohol sales before nine o’clock in the morning on Sundays, except on St. Patrick’s Day.
Providers may only serve two drinks at a time.
Ladies’ night discounts are illegal gender-based price discrimination.
Maryland law decriminalizes possession or consumption of alcohol by those under the age of 21. This prevents young people from having a criminal record. A criminal record could hurt college admission, career selection, etc.
The state bans happy hours.
State law bans any kind of drink specials. For example, fixed-price open bars, all-you-can-drink, free drinks, and drinks as prizes
It’s illegal for a person under 21 to give a gift of alcohol to anyone. Even to a person of legal age.
Permitting diners to take home an unfinished bottle of alcohol beverage discourages intoxication. Otherwise, they tend to drink all of it to prevent “waste.” However, this is illegal in the state.
Farm wineries must source over 50 percent of their grapes from within the state.
Public intoxication is specifically not a crime.
It’s perfectly legal to drink and drive. However, the driver’s blood alcohol content remains below the legal limit of .08.
Mississippi is one of a very few states that still ban wine shipments directly to consumers.
People under 21 who take out trash containing a single empty alcohol beverage container are at risk in the state. On the basis of that fact alone, police can arrest them for illegal possession of alcohol.
It’s illegal to sit on any street curb in St. Louis and drink beer from a bucket. Well, there go plans for the weekend!
A small brewery may pour no more than 48 ounces of beer peer person during a business day. And it may pour only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
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 held parents responsible for the delinquent acts of their children. That law was abolished long ago.
Bars can’t sell beer unless they are also cooking a pot of soup.
It is illegal to fly a plane while “high.”
No city or town in Nevada may pass a law against public intoxication.
State says that “public drunkenness is not a public offense and shall not be treated as such.”
Bars may sell beer and wine. However, only restaurants may sell distilled spirits.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has strongly objected to wine tasting being permitted in collegiate culinary classes. Even though students may not swallow any alcohol.
Drunk drivers may not have vanity plates on their vehicles for ten years after conviction..
It’s illegal in for parents to give their children under 18 even a sip of alcohol. Thus, they’re unable to teach them drinking in moderation.
Boating while intoxicated “includes using water skis, wakeboard, kneeboards, or similar devices” is illegal.
It’s illegal to use the word “saloon” in a bar’s name. After Michael O’Neil opened O’Neil’s Saloon, the state liquor authority said he was breaking the law. So he complied by changing the “S” into a “B.” Thus changing it to O’Neil’s Baloon.
At the age of 18, adults can become bartenders in the state. However, they may not buy any alcohol until they are at least 21.
Discounting alcoholic beverage prices is illegal in the state. Therefore, happy hours are illegal.
It’s illegal to serve alcohol at bingo games.
State law of North Dakota prohibits serving beer and pretzels at the same time in any bar or restaurant.
Ohio state law prohibits giving alcohol to a fish to the point of intoxication.
The wine “Fat Bastard” is widely available in the US. However, Ohio banned its sale.
Up until 2018, all beers, except those of the lowest-alcohol variety, had to be sold at room temperature.
Any location with a liquor license must also serve at least five different food items.
Six packs are sold only by bars, cases by beer distributors, and wine and liquor at state government monopoly stores. Therefore, it’s impossible to buy beer and spirits at the same location. The same is true of beer and wine.
Alcohol is illegal on all ocean beaches of the state.
Learn about South of the Border attraction in South Carolina. It’s a place that dry counties in North Carolina created.
In Deadwood, it’s illegal to mix an alcoholic beverage with another without a permit.
The Tennessee Attorney General’s office issued a legal opinion. It’s that some state rules about alcohol advertising are unconstitutional. Specifically, 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.
The entire Encyclopedia Britannica was banned because it contained a formula for making beer at home.
Texas state law prohibits taking more than three sips of beer at a time while standing.
In Houston, beer many not be sold after midnight on Sunday. However, it can be sold anytime on Monday…which happens to begin right after midnight on Sunday! So it’s illegal to sell it when it’s legal to sell it?
Texas alcohol laws and regulations can be very, very confusing. See Alcohol Regulations Often problematic, Inconsistent, and Illogical.
Discover Impact, Texas. It’s a town that dry (prohibition) areas built.
Wine used in wine tastings must not be swallowed!
It’s illegal to advertise drink prices, alcohol brands, or to show a “drinking scene.”
For restaurants, it’s illegal to offer alcohol beverage lists unless a customer specifically requests one.
Cocktails may contain only 1.5 ounces of a primary spirit. An additional ounce of a spirit may be added long if the bottle has a yellow sticker. That label must identify it as “flavoring.” Thus, the total amount of spirits in one drink cannot exceed 2.5 ounces.
It’s illegal to offer happy hours or to advertise free food.
Only 4% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer can be sold on draft or in supermarkets and convenience stores.
Beer above 4% ABV may only be sold in bottles in restaurants, bars, breweries, and state government monopoly liquor stores.
Is Utah the champion of weird alcohol laws? Don’t decide until you read the really weird alcohol laws of Virginia.
No beer may be served in containers holding over 32 ounces. That’s regardless of how many people may be sharing it.
State law prohibits either holding a drink or drinking alcohol while dancing.
No more than one drink may be served to any customer at one time. Nor dose it doesn’t matter if the customer is buying for others.
It’s illegal to give people alcohol, “directly or indirectly,” to try to influence how they vote.
State law prevents restaurants from advertising their happy hours in the media.
A licensed restaurant may advertise its happy hour special on a sign no bigger than 17″ by 22.” That sign may only note that there is happy hour, or drink specials. However, it may not state what those specials are. And the sign may only be displayed during the specified happy hour time.
Otherwise, there is no alcohol advertising permitted in windows of places that sell alcohol. Nor may it be seen inside through any window.
Also, “it is unlawful to conduct a happy hour between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.”
When distillers sell bottles to visitors, they must send all money from the sale to the ABC Authority. After it takes taxes and the government’s mark-up, distillers get only 46% of the selling price back.
Licensees “cannot sell two or more drinks for one price.”
The state permits pre-mixed containers of sangria for sale. However, it prohibits pre-mixed margaritas, Long Island Iced Teas, etc.
Let’s say you’re intoxicated but not driving your car. But the person who is driving your car is intoxicated. In that case, police can charge both you and the driver with DUI in Virginia Beach.
Does Virginia have more weird alcohol laws than Utah?
It is a criminal act to destroy a beer bottle or a cask.
Judges may not bar invalid or incorrect breath test readings from court, by state law. (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.)
In West Virginia bars are technically illegal, if they don’t also serve food.
Bars can advertise alcohol beverage prices, but not brand names.
It’s illegal to bring more than 10 gallons of alcohol into the state for personal use.
Ladies’ night discounts are illegal. That is because they discriminate against men.
Patrons may not bring their own alcoholic beverages into a restaurant to drink with their meal.
It’s illegal for a woman to stand within five feet of a bar while drinking. (Sounds like illegal gender-based discrimination.)
It is illegal for an intoxicated person to be to in a mine.
It’s also illegal to ski drunk.
II. Resources: Weird Alcohol Laws
Cawthorne, N. The Strange Laws of Old England. London: Piatkus, 2015.
Prosopio, W. and Wojna, L. Weird U.S. Laws. Edmonton, Blue Bike, 2012.
Wojna, L. and Garcia, R. Weird Canadian Laws. Edmonton: Blue Bike, 2006.
At this point you know much more about weird alcohol laws than most people. So congratulations!
Know any weird alcohol laws that should go on this list of weird alcohol laws? If so, contact hansondj[at sign]potsdam[dot]edu/. Thanks!