America’s Strangest Liquor and Beer Laws

Tears mingled with strong beer in Newark, N.J. as prohibition agents destroy unlawful liquor, some of which was seized in Hoboken raid in 1931.
Tears mingled with strong beer in Newark, N.J. as prohibition agents destroy unlawful liquor, some of which was seized in Hoboken raid in 1931. NY Daily News Archive / Getty Images

Anybody who has ever been to a party in the Twin Cities might be familiar with this scenario: You're having a great time when the beer supply starts to approach dangerously low levels. Normally this type of thing wouldn't be a huge deal, but the problem is that the party started on Saturday and lasted into Sunday, and there are laws against selling beer in Minnesota on Sunday. But since Minnesotans are a resourceful bunch who love their beer, chances are somebody will say, "Don't worry. We can drive over the border into Wisconsin," and soon enough, the Leinenkugel will flow again. 


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While some alcohol laws are effectively national — states risk losing federal funding if they set a legal drinking age under 21 — most vary state by state. As a result, it's a lot easier to get a daiquiri in Louisiana than it is to get a vodka tonic in Utah. Here are a few of the oddest state laws governing beer, liquor, and the places that sell them.

If you own a bar in Oregon that sells liquor, you'd better invest in some cookbooks. The state requires that bars serve food at all times if hard liquor is available. Selling bags of potato chips and beer nuts won't cut it, either — bars must offer "five different substantial food items," and appetizers and desserts don't count. Pizza, sandwiches, and soup are all acceptable, though.

Planning to watch a Patriots game at a bar in Boston? You'll be paying full price for that Sam Adams. The state has banned happy hours since 1984, and it's not the only one — happy hour promotions are also banned in North Carolina and Utah. Yet the restrictions don't seem to stop Harvard students from getting their drink on, though. So how do you like them apples?

We’re not sure there was ever a widespread issue with bars showing pornography, but Alabama has the answer to a problem very few people have seemed to notice. The state prohibits bars from displaying films or still pictures depicting any sex acts or nudity. Crimson Tide football fans will just have to read their Playboys somewhere else.

If you love beer, Michigan's got your back. Bar owners who serve "pints" that actually contain less than 16 ounces of beer could technically face jail time for stiffing their customers (though that kind of punishment is — sadly for all you purists — unlikely). The Wolverine State also recently legalized growlers, which means it’s a pretty good place to be a beer enthusiast these days.

If you want to enjoy a frosty one in Indiana, you should probably plan ahead. Liquor stores in the state are allowed to sell cold beer, but supermarkets and convenience stores are forbidden from selling refrigerated suds. Thirsty Hoosiers who aren’t able to make it to a liquor store should invest in a good refrigerator (or a bunch of fire extinguishers).

Puerto Rico
Unlike American states, the territory of Puerto Rico sets its minimum drinking age at 18. That's also the minimum voting age, but be sure you don’t combine the two — the island bans sales of alcohol on Election Day.

The Beehive State is almost legendary (and not in a good way) among drinkers for its insanely strict alcohol laws. If you go to a restaurant, you can't be served a drink until there’s food on the table. Draft beer can be no more than 4-percent alcohol. And then there are the notorious "Zion curtains" — partitions behind which bartenders mix drinks (they're not legally allowed to do it in front of you).

The town that produces Jack Daniels, one of the most famous whiskey brands in the world, Lynchburg, is in a dry county where you can't buy booze. 

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