There I was, minding my own business when I simply asked, “Hey, where do they keep the hard liquor?” This would lead me down a path I did not know existed, a path of bizarre legalese and puritanical tomfoolery. This is a look at the United States’ weird alcohol laws.

I was on vacation with my wife in Cincinnati, visiting a friend of hers and checking out the MidWest for the first time. We were stocking up for a fun weekend and I brought up hard alcohol when we were parusing the beer aisle (I am trying to lose weight and have convinced myself vodka is the key). My wife’s friend mentioned an ABC store that was close by where we could get hard alcohol. I was confused. I didn’t need anything fancy, just the normal off brand shit that comes in a plastic bottle, which is handy if you get too drunk and tend to drop breakable things.

She had to explain that the state of Ohio does not allow hard alcohol to be sold in regular grocery stores. It is only available at state run alcohol stores, or ABC stores; the ABC stands for Alcohol Beverage Control.

I had not heard of such nonsense and as such, I was intrigued. I had to go. I dragged my wife to a place called “The Wine List.” It sounded fancy but was just like any liquor store you could find in California (shout out to my homies at Nordahl Liquor). It kind of looked like a miniature Bevmo, but with the lottery tickets and cigarettes of your local Bodega. I took pictures for referrence.

So, I had to know more. What kind of legislative nonsense made me stop at TWO places just to get my alcoholic dietary supplement? What politician was to blame for my inescapably unnecessary voyage and were the miles tax deductable, because in my home state I would never have to put up with this madness? Of course, it went deeper than I ever imagined. (*Full disclosure, I am going to dumb down my findings here, not because I do not think you will understand them, but because they are so needlessly complicated that it would not be funny.*)

Prohibition is to blame for so many problems, and this is no exception. When it was repealed December 5th, 1933 with the 21st amendment, there were no rules about how it would be enforced. It was left up to the states to choose how they wanted to handle alcohol enforcement.

Also, as a sidenote, I find it funny that prohibition was repealed not too long after the fall of the stock market and into the Great Depression. I could see the polititions of the time saying, “Okay, okay, we fucked up. We get it. You lost all of your savings and now you can’t find a job. But, well, how about we let you drink? Does that help?”

When alcohol consumption became legal again, each state decided to do their own thing, which lead to the insane rules you will find while traveling this beautiful country. Here are some of my favorites:

  • 17 states only allow the sale of alcohol from specific businesses, some directly and some through third party vendors.
  • Alabama, Idaho, New hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia own these liquor stores directly.
  • In Oklahoma, beer over 4% must be sold at room temperature from grocery stores.
  • Until recently, Jack Daniels distillery in Tenesse was in a dry county. Meaning that no alcohol could be sold on premises and that at the end of the tour they would hand you lemonade.
  • You can drink in public in parts of Georgia and Nevada. Go ahead, have a beer at the park.
  • Until 2014, the sale of alcohol was prohibited on election day in South Carolina. This one goes back to when polling stations were held in saloons. This law was to discourage politicians from bribing voters with free drinks which actually makes a lot of sense.


I also found out that the madness does not stop at the state level. In many states there are “dry” counties. These counties still have prohibition (what year is this?). The really funny part is that many of them will have a “wet” city, where alcohol is only allowed to be purchased and consumed. The term ‘wet city’ also gives me an immature chuckle.

Well, I hope you liked my strange tangent on alcohol and its various treatment across the states. I am still writing Rex Cabernet – A Dance With Death part 2. Sorry for the delay but it should be coming out very soon. As always, thank you for reading and please feel free to share this with your friends, coworkers, nephews, and strangers. Thank you so much for reading.

Chris Joy

Categories: Humor, travelTags: , , , ,

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