Navigating the maze of state liquor laws is a challenge for anybody, but especially any bar, restaurant or brewery trying to do business in many, if not every, one of the states. A Chicago law firm, the Hays Firm LLC, with a practice area in Restaurant and Bar Services, created an interesting infographic detailing many of the quirky differences of U.S. Liquor License Laws & Facts, particularly their laws on licensing, BYOB and corkage, introduced with the following:
When you wind down at the end of the day or meet up for a social night with friends for a drink, have you thought about how and why you have access to alcohol? Maybe you ordered a beverage at a bar or restaurant, or maybe you picked up a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer before watching a Sunday football game at home.
But, how’d you really get the drink in your hand? There are U.S. regulations that provide or limit public or business access to alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol sales and serving in restaurants, bars, liquor stores, grocery stores, and even patios and events are subject to local or state laws, or consumers or sellers risk losing permission to interact with it, which could result in legal penalties, and even decreased revenues that keep businesses thriving. Many restaurants aim to have alcohol sales account for 30% of their revenue, so not adhering to liquor license and Bring-Your-Own-Beverage (BYOB) laws, could drive customers away and negatively impact profitability.
Very interesting presentation, but w/one major error regarding MD. Baltimore is in BALTIMORE County, not Montgomery (where I lived late ’62- late ’78).
They’re correct that Montgomery Co controls the entire alcohol biz. County-owned liquor stores sell mostly booze, but some beer (none cold; not good!) & wine; retailers order beer & wine from the County(which I did the last 3 yrs I worked in a grocery store before moving to Oakland).
The quirky (& WRONG) thing about the setup is that only 1 store in a major chain (Giant, Safeway, etc) can have a beer & wine license, but all the 7-11’s can sell beer & wine because they’re franchises operating as “DBA’s”. Thus, there are lot of independent retailers specializing in beer & wine, & the consumer gets somewhat screwed price-wise, especially because Trader Joe’s won’t play the game (they sell beer & wine in VA stores; never have been in one in any other MD County).
Booze prices are reasonable, as they have to compete w/DC & neighboring counties’ privately-owned stores – but they’re 10-20% higher than SF Bay Area discounted/sale prices. These days, Californians are odds-on to have the best deal going, price-wise, for booze & wine – craft beer in DC area generally more expensive @ retailers than here, even if it’s local
Montgomery Co abuts DC’s NW side to the Potomac River & doesn’t abut Baltimore County – only Frederick, Howard, & Prince George’s touch it. MD is “local option” regarding alcohol, so the laws vary by county – the common thread is that liquor sales in other than “liquor stores” is pretty much taboo. DC & VA allow only beer & wine sales in grocery stores/other retailers, but they differ for booze – DC is all independent retail; VA has state-run stores whose prices generally exceed those in DC & MD.
Color yourself lucky if you live in CA & like any alcoholic stuff (especially craft beer!) – we’ve got some of the best prices & liquor laws in the USA!
Sidebars to my previous post (that date back to 123/62-1/6Dec 1962, when my family 1st moved to DC area)
1. Montgomery Co, MD: There were only FOUR establishments who could serve drinks (all grandfathered in from some law change before we arrived. However, there was a semi-upscale Marriott-ownes steak house (“Sirloin & Saddle”, long gone) that was in a nearby shopping center – 3 doors down was a County liquor store. So one could get a drink there – the server would go buy a miniature @ the store & provide whatever setup you requested – legally, they could charge only the actual booze price; whatever they wanted for the setup. A decent booze drink cost 6 bits to a buck, total. 2-3 yrs later, the county got real (because restaurants were losing business to DC/VA/PG Co) – then the price of a drink doubled.
2. Northern VA (either Fiarfax or Arlington Co), early Dec ’62: After a day of scouting the area, we go into a decent-looking restaurant for dinner -we see small cage lockers lining the lobby wall within arms’ reach & are baffled. My parents soon found out when they tried to order a drink – the lockers were for booze (similar to what still exists in Utah & a few other states). Talk about culture shock!
3. DC quirkiness: 1st experienced this during my college days (9/67), when my pals & I would go down to DC to split pitchers of beer (then $2 for Bud/Schlitz) on weekends, as MD didn’t lower the beer/wine drinking age to 18 until after we turned 21. DC was 18 & had many beer joints on the perimeter that catered to college kids. Pub grub didn’t exist then, so I loaded up on ice cream before we headed down (usually 8:30-9:30 PM – in those days it was a 20-min drive max). We took turns being the “carpool” driver; nobody ever got a DUI, as the cops then had far more leeway than now – we got stopped only once (I think for a “fix it” ticket or not having headlights on) – no arrests, as nobody was belligerent/confrontational.
However, if you spotted friends at another table, you couldn’t move your beer to it – a server had to do it for you! My dad had experienced the same thing in WA during his WWII Navy days – being from NYC, he was appalled – & at least I’d heard about it so wasn’t shocked.
I hope others will share goofy/stupid liquor law stories & catch errata on that poster regarding states other than MD & CA.