The United States of weird liquor laws


The Field Guide to Drinking in America
Niki Ganong
Overcup Press


If you’re planning on a trip to the United States some time soon, I am very jealous. I should be so lucky. Anyway, seeing as how you’re going there, you should probably get yourself a copy of this book.

It details the liquor laws in each of the 50 states – where you can buy a drink, which places sell packaged beer, where you can get a growler filled.

But even if you’re not heading there, this book is an interesting read. Well, if you find the vagaries of US liquor laws interesting, that is. See, as well as varying from state to state, the laws can also vary from county to county within each state.

Some states set uniform laws across all counties, while others allow each county to set their own rules. So you can have counties that serve alcohol right next to those that don’t. Yep, it’s about 80 years since Prohibition and some places in the United States still have a ban on alcohol.

So, because it amused me, I compiled a list of some of the more interesting quirks of the United States.


ALABAMA: Twenty-five of Alabama’s 67 counties are dry. While the sale of alcohol is prohibited, possession and consumption is not.

DELAWARE: There is no sales tax on anything, including beer. So residents of neighbouring states drive to Delaware and stock up. Though some states – like Pennsylvania don’t like this. Their laws consider this bootlegging and will fine people per bottle.

INDIANA: You can’t buy cold beer at a petrol station or supermarket. Only a liquor store can sell cold packaged beer.

MAINE: In the event of riots, hurricanes and floods, the governor can order liquor stores to stop selling spirits and fortified wines.

MARYLAND: The liquor laws are determined at a local level in each of the 23 counties. So some businesses will be able to sell beer in one county but not in another.

MASSACHUSETTS:  You can’t order a pitcher of beer or a bottle of wine if you are dining alone.

MICHIGAN: You can’t drink beer in branded glassware.

MISSOURI: You can’t pour alcohol directly into someone’s mouth.

MONTANA: You can’t order more than three pints of beer per day in a single brewpub.

NEVADA: You can’t go on an amusement park ride while under the influence of alcohol.

NEW HAMPSHIRE:  Bars and restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol between 6am and 1am every day of the year.

NEW JERSEY: If you have been convicted of driving while intoxicated, you cannot apply for personalised licence plates.

NEW YORK: You can order beer along with a meal for delivery or take-out.

NORTH DAKOTA: You cannot barter for beer.

OHIO: You can’t win alcohol as a prize in a contest.

OREGON: You can use a beer bong in a bar.

PENNSYLVANIA: There are only two ways to buy beer – by the case from a beer distributor or by the six-pack from a bar or restaurant. Supermarkets and petrol stations can sell beer if they obtain a restaurant licence – which means they have to be able to seat 30 people.

RHODE ISLAND: You can’t fill a growler at a brewery.

VERMONT: You can’t participate in a game or contest that encourages excessive drinking.

VIRGINIA: The legal drinking age across the United States in 21 but in Virginia you’re considered to be 21 on the day BEFORE your birthday.

WASHINGTON DC: You can’t order your next drink before you’ve finished the one you’ve got.

WASHINGTON STATE: If you’re running as a political candidate, you can’t buy people drinks or give away booze on election day.

WEST VIRGINIA: You can’t buy packaged beer on a Sunday.

2 replies »

  1. Pennsylvania is the craziest for a foreigner. Not only is beer purchasing challenging for locals, as a foriegner you need to provide a passport as ID.

    Am heading over in a couple of weeks and will be visiting a bar in a supermarket.

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