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The Weird and Very Long History of State Liquor Laws

In the US, liquor laws are under local control. They vary from state to state, and within states they can vary from county to county or even from precinct to precinct. And they vary a lot. For example, Pennsylvania just last week repealed a centuries-old prohibition on individuals importing wine from any other state or country. Finally, Pennsylvanians can join the wine of the month club!

Elsewhere, America's liquor laws don't get much more rational. In Massachusetts, for example, happy hours are illegal. In Utah, home to the country's most specific prohibitions, no beer on tap can be more than 4.0 percent alcohol, you have to order food with your booze at restaurants, you can't order doubles, and, for restaurants open after July 2012, cocktails will be mixed only out of the sight of customers. In Maine, you can't buy a drink after 9 a.m. on Sundays, except when that Sunday happens to be St. Patrick's Day. In Louisiana, you can buy a daiquiri in a drive-through but can't drive with it if a straw is inserted into the cup. In Nevada, you can drink pretty much anywhere and public drunkenness simply isn't a crime.

That’s what happens when the Constitution doesn’t address liquor, so regulation was left to the states. And because Americans were never known for moderation in anything: too much drinking led to draconian restrictions. While some restrictive laws were kind of experimental, they’ve become really difficult to change. Read about the history of liquor laws in America at Atlas Obscura.


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Not sure if it is still this way in Maine, but when I was in college there, at the local hangout bar/pizza place, I had a beer and got up to take it over to visit some friends at a table. All of a sudden the bartender is having a fit, yelling at me to stop. Seems that they had a law the prohibited carrying a drink from one place to another, even for standing while imbibing. One law the bar tenders must have liked was when the bar stopped selling alcohol, they took your glass. No nursing that last call drink in Maine.
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My area was dry for about a century, until about ten years ago, when the yearly referendum finally went wet. But only inside the city limits: most of southeastern KY is still dry. Since then, the number of drunk driving arrests have gone down, and the town is rolling in money. The bootleggers either retired or went totally into drugs.
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Even worse, the issue WAS addressed in the Constitution via the 18th amendment. That went so poorly that the U.S. repealed it with the 21st amendment. The current state of affairs certainly can't be laid at the feet of the "Founding Fathers" of the country. There's been plenty of time and effort spent on the issues surrounding alcohol.
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From the article:

You can blame the Founding Fathers, for one thing, since they didn't care to address the issue in the Constitution, leaving states to decide how to handle it.

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