Benjamin Franklin allegedly once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” But the consumption of alcoholic beverages has been a contentious topic in the United States since the colonial period. The debate over the government’s role in regulating alcohol consumption culminated in the 18th Amendment during the early 20th century, which established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. by declaring the production, transport, and sale of alcohol illegal — though it was still legal to consume or privately possess it.
Well, we know now how awesomely that turned out. Prohibition resulted in a public demand for illegal alcohol, making criminals of producers and distributors. The criminal justice system was overwhelmed, prisons were overcrowded, and court dockets fell behind trying to deal with the rapid surge in crime. Prohibition sired a new age of organized crime, which expanded to take advantage of the lucrative business. There also was widespread corruption among those charged with enforcing unpopular laws.
This went on for more than a decade until the 21st Amendment was passed in 1933 to repeal the 18th Amendment and end the disastrous social experiment. To this day, it is the only constitutional amendment to be repealed. Well done, ‘merica.
The Constitution may no longer prevent us from enjoying that hard-earned happy hour, but at the state, county, and municipal levels there are plenty of laws on the books that restrict alcohol consumption. Some of them are pretty weird.
Here are some of the weirdest ones we could find:
1. No cold beers in Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, all beer containing more than 4 percent alcohol must be sold at room temperature. To get around this, beer distributors in the state primarily sell low-point beer, which allows the beer to be sold in convenience stores and supermarkets, as well as in refrigerated form. The law defines low-point beer as any beverage containing between 0.5 and 3.2 percent alcohol by weight.
2. No drinking bourbon in the land of bourbon.
Kentucky’s confusing alcohol laws result in a patchwork of counties that are dry, prohibiting all sale of alcoholic beverages; wet, permitting full retail sales under state license; and “moist,” occupying a middle ground between the two. Kentucky also happens to be the home of bourbon, which attracts countless tourists every year to visit the historic distilleries — but they are unable to drink it because the distilleries are located in dry countries. Luckily, the state now allows tourists to take “little” sips of whiskey — whatever that means.
3. You can drink in public, but can’t be drunk in public in Georgia.
Georgia leaves it to its cities to regulate open container laws. However, in many towns drinking in public is perfectly okay, though it’s unlawful to appear (and be) inebriated. This sounds like the makings of an amazing drinking game.
4. You can only chug while standing up in Texas.
I hope you’re sitting down for this. In the Lone Star State, if you are standing up, you can only take three sips of beer. Luckily, the law does not specify just how big a sip can be (and everyone knows everything is bigger in Texas).
5. No bar-tending in public in Utah.
In Utah, bartenders can’t pour your beer or mix your cocktail in front of you. They are required to keep the process out of the customer’s sight, which involves barriers that create a “Zion Curtain.” Granted, this only applies to establishments with a restaurant license.
6. You can’t buy beer and liquor in the same place in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, there are state-run liquor stores (state stores), and privately owned beer stores (distributors). This means you would have to go to one store to get your Fireball, and another to get your IPA. At the beer distributor, you can only buy cases (30 packs or 24 packs). If you want small quantities, then you have to go to a bar, bottle shop, or more recently, a grocery store with a special license. However, you can’t buy more than 192 ounces at a bar or bottle shop. Sounds like a lot of work for a drink.
7. No happy hour in Massachusetts.
This might just be the saddest law of all time. It is unlawful in Massachusetts to “offer or deliver any free drinks to any person or group of persons; deliver more than two drinks to one person at one time; or sell, offer to sell or deliver to any person or group of persons any drinks at a price less than the price regularly charged for such drinks during the same calendar week…”
What’s the weirdest alcohol law you have ever encountered? Let us know in the comments!