Today marks the 80th anniversary of the repeal of “The Noble Experiment,” Prohibition, with the passage of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. It’s interesting to note some of the consequences of the occasion as many states have considered or passed reforms to their liquor control laws, most of which are vestiges of this era.
In Michigan, a series of reforms has been debated over the past year. It appears the package of bills is being held up over a single issue dispute, regarding the unique Michigan practice of banning promotional items in bars. For non residents, that means you never see logoed glassware, napkins, coasters and the like in the Great Lakes State. That ban may or may not stay in force, but it’s fate is likely to determine that of the rest of the reforms as well. From our perch, we don’t care one way or the other on this issue, but do hope it’s resolved soon allowing everything else to move forward.
That said, it’s interesting to peruse some of the “odd” liquor laws around the country. Purposely created by the 21st Amendment, control is left to the states, which means that a patchwork of rules, regulations and goofy laws are dotted all across the land. Some of the dandies include:
- In Alabama, it’s unlawful to provide alcohol or tobacco to animals in public parks.
- In South Carolina public schools, by law, devote the fourth Friday of every October, called Francis Willard Day, to teaching kids about the dangers of overindulgence.
- Several states (Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Utah) permit only “low-point” beer—anything 3.2% alcohol by weight or 4% by volume—to be sold in groceries and convenience stores. Stronger beers can only be sold in liquor stores.
- Massachusetts bans “happy hour” specials. Bar owners get creative, though; since they legally can’t offer drink specials, they offer food discounts instead.
- Oregon allows bars and restaurants to offer happy-hour promotions, but ban them from being advertised.
- Growler laws vary state by state. Maryland allows only five establishments (all brewpubs) to refill growers. Florida bans growler refills altogether. Delaware’s governor signed a bill into law in May 2013 allowing liquor stores to sell and fill growlers on site. Michigan recently expanded growler fills to licensed bars & restaurants in addition to breweries and brewpubs previously allowed.
- Until recently, Virginia banned the mixture of wine and spirits…effectively outlawing a sangria.
- In Colorado, it’s illegal to be “drunk on horseback.”
- Utah liquor stores are run by the state and close at 10 PM.
- In Iowa, it’s illegal to run a bar tab (unless paying by credit card) or to pour any liquid – including water – down the drain in the presence of a police officer.
- 1989’s Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Act (DFSCA) make it illegal for any U.S. exchange student under the age of 21 to drink in a foreign country, even if it is legal in that country.
- Kansas only made on-premises liquor sales legal in 1987, and as of today 29 counties still prohibit such sales. To obtain a license to run a liquor store, prospective owners must be an American citizen for ten years, a Kansan for four, can not be employed in law enforcement, and must never have been convicted of a felony, a crime of moral turpitude, or any alcohol offense… and if you’re married, your spouse has to meet the same requirements.
- Minnesota and Tennessee are so opposed to basic convenience that they forbid the sale of any non-alcoholic beverage in a liquor store, meaning that even the most basic cocktails require multiple stops to acquire mixers.
- Pennsylvania has some of the weirdest alcohol sale laws in the nation — no beer in grocery stores, six-packs can be purchased in restaurants while cases and kegs must be purchased from special “beverage outlets.” All liquor stores are owned and operated by the state. All beer brands and labels sold must be “registered” with the state as well, which often proves a nightmare for craft brewers.
- Alaska allows minors to drink alcohol, as long as it was not served in a licensed bar or restaurant and it was given to said minor by parents or legal guardians. In other words, they can drink at home where nobody should know anyway.
- In Missouri, it is illegal to put drugs in alcohol. No “coke” mixer for you.
- Nebraska prohibits any physical contact between the bar’s owner or employees and the bar’s customers, involving any kissing and/or any touching of either party’s personal and private areas of the body.
- In Ohio, it is illegal for sellers of alcohol to give you anything alcoholic for your birthday, anniversary, Christmas, or any other celebrations.
- Texas bars alcoholic bottle labels from carrying any design that can be associated with the U.S. flag, the Texas flag, or the armed forces.
- Members of the military can import more than one gallon of an alcoholic beverage into Florida without paying taxes on it, while average citizens cannot.
- In North Dakota, coupons are absolutely forbidden on sales of alcohol.
There are other goofy laws out there, but they all share one thing in common as to their origins: the Amendment passed eighty years ago today.