- The United States has a long history of regulating alcohol consumption, from Prohibition in the early 20 th century, to the Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984.
- The Drinking Age Act essentially required all states to mandate a 21-year-old drinking age or lose federal funding for state highways and by 1988, all 50 states complied.
- Despite the mandatory minimum drinking age, states still have their own interesting laws about alcohol and some states are actually strict about it.
The United States has a long history of regulating alcohol consumption.
Before 1984, each state could set its own minimum age requirement for drinking. But then Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which said states had to comply with a minimum drinking age of 21. States were compelled to comply, as the federal government would withhold federal funding for state highways if they did not. By 1988, all 50 states had complied.
Despite the uniform drinking age across the country, each state still has its own unique liquor laws, including where you can buy alcohol and what times you’re allowed to buy it. Many states have time restrictions on Sundays and restrictions on obtaining alcohol licenses.
Scroll down to find out which states have some strict liquor laws.
New Jersey only allows two liquor licenses per chain store.
Chain stores in New Jersey can only obtain two liquor licenses throughout the whole state, so even though beer and wine can be sold in grocery stores in New Jersey, it’s not as common because of the licence limit.
The number of liquor licenses is also limited by population, so a municipality can give out one consumption licence (for restaurants and bars) for every 3,000 people and one distribution licence (for liquor stores and other off-premises stores) for every 7,500 people.
This law makes it so attaining a licence in New Jersey is incredibly expensive; One licence even reportedly sold for $US1.6 million.
In North Carolina, drink specials are illegal.
According to the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Retail Guide for Permittees, special promotions for free drinks including “‘two for one,’ ‘buy one, get a second for a nickel,’ ‘buy a meal (or anything), get a free drink,’ etc” are completely banned in the state.
Restaurants in South Carolina can’t sell alcohol on Sundays without a special permit.
Though lots of states have special laws defining what times alcohol can be sold on Sundays, South Carolina completely prohibits the sale of alcohol without a special permit.
Bars and liquor stores can’t open until polls close on election days in Alaska.
On election days in Alaska, businesses that sell alcohol must stay closed until polls close. It is also illegal to be drunk on the premises of a bar or restaurant that sells alcohol, and bars can’t sell alcohol at a discounted rate unless the discount is regularly given every day of the week.
In Pennsylvania, hard liquor can only be bought at state-run stores.
Before 2017, Pennsylvania’s alcohol laws were some of the strictest. People weren’t allowed to buy hard liquor, wine, and beer in the same place, so instead, they had to go to three separate places.
Liquor and wine were only sold by state-owned stores (there are 16 other states that have a monopoly on alcohol sales, called “control states” or “alcohol control states”). Beer had to be bought at special beer distributors and customers were limited by how much beer they could buy.
Pennsylvania has passed legislation, however, that allows beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores and with fewer limits on the amount. The state still requires that people buy their hard liquor separately, though, from state-run stores. It also prohibits games like beer pong at bars.
You must order food if you’re going to order alcohol at a bar or restaurant in Utah.
One of Utah’s alcohol-related laws requires that patrons ordering alcohol in restaurants must also order food. However, in a “tavern” you can order just alcohol without food.
Beer in Utah is also only 3.2% alcohol by weight or 4% by volume, nothing stronger.
Utah is another state with state-run liquor stores and those are closed on Sundays and holidays.
In Massachusetts, out-of-state IDs aren’t proof of age at bars.
Massachusetts has some of the most strict alcohol laws, including that bars don’t have to accept out-of-state IDs as proof of age.
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