The 3 Best and 3 Worst States in America for Drinking

Some food for thought as the U.S. celebrates the repeal of alcohol prohibition on the 80th anniversary of the 21st amendment

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Thursday marks the 80th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st amendment to the Constitution, otherwise known as the end of prohibition. Though boozing has been legal nationwide for several generations, some states have retained their zeal for restricting American’s right to party. Others are a lot more cool about it. In the spirit of this joyous anniversary, TIME presents the 3 best and worst states for drinking.

The Best

1. MissouriThere’s no place better in the country to get your drink on than the Show-Me State. Missouri has no restrictions against open containers, and the only places it’s illegal to be drunk in public are occupied schools, churches or courthouses. While localities can pass laws banning public intoxication, it’s prohibited for cities and towns to require arrest for such offenses.

2. Nevada: Nevada has a deserved reputation for enlightened attitudes towards the sin industries. Similar to Missouri, there is a ban on local laws that make public intoxication illegal. Alcohol can also be purchased 24 hours a day, 7 days per week by any business that’s willing to keep those hours, and in places like Las Vegas, there are plenty of vendors that fit that description.

3. Wisconsin: Wisconsin’s cultural affinity towards beer and brewing is well known, and it has helped encouraged the state’s lax liquor laws. State law only prohibits sale of liquor between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., and minors under the age of 21 are legally allowed to drink as long as they are accompanied by parents, guardians or spouses of legal drinking age. That’s right, one way to avoid needing that fake ID is marriage!

The Worst

1. Utah: Many of the restrictive drinking laws around the country derive from a religious skepticism of alcohol, and Utah’s strong religious culture has helped motivate the passage of sundry drinking restrictions. Only beer with less than 3.2% alcohol by weight can be sold in grocery and convenience stores or on tap. Like a strong drink? You’re out of luck in Utah, as cocktails can only contain 1.5 ounces of a primary liquor, while alcohol can’t be purchased in restaurants without food. Oh yeah, keggers are out of the question too, as keg sales are prohibited.

2. Massachusetts: Massachusetts is well-known for its many colleges and universities, but the state’s laws seemed aimed at preventing these students from having very much fun. Out of state drivers licenses aren’t acceptable proofs of age under state law, meaning that out-of-state visitors can get turned away from bars. Bars are also prohibited from  allowing drinking games on their premises, and perhaps worst of all, happy hours are banned state wide.

3. Pennsylvania: If you’re not from the Keystone State, stocking up for a party can be a pretty confusing task. All wine and liquor sold in the state are done so by state-owned liquor stores, which don’t sell beer at all. If you want a six-pack of brews, you would think that a “beer distributor” would be the place to go, except that those establishments are only allowed to sell cases. For anything less you have to go to a restaurant with a liquor control board-issued license. Got all that? Me neither. Who needs a drink?

108 comments
iamsmooth48
iamsmooth48

Buy your beer wine or other alcohol in a near by state, bring it across the border into PA.  That's a no-no...PA. cops were driving through parking lots in Delaware checking plates on PA. cars parked near a Total Wine store..

dtfdtf
dtfdtf

No opinion on how alcohol sales should be done, but this article I think spells out issues.    Alcohol seems to becoming the center of every event while it continues to cause health, death, marriage issues, crime, etc.  I am not for marijuana use but it amazes me how it being much less harmful is "bad" but a society focused on alcohol is "good"


http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/01/14/america-is-drunk/?intcmp=features



glasraen
glasraen

Not entirely true.  In PA, you can get individual items from convenient stores or grocery stores with a separate entrance and which are licensed by the LCB--not just restaurants.

TroyCarsey
TroyCarsey

That's some great investigative reporting, but falls short of the truth. Utah measures alcohol by weight while the majority of states measure by volume, this may or may not be due to the fact that measuring by weight gives the impression that there is less alcohol in the beer. Utah's 3.2% beer becomes 4.0% when measured by "normal" standards.

n8dagr828.ng
n8dagr828.ng

If one wants to drink, and DOES NOT OPERATE a vehicle or drink in public, then stay out of my private life, and Separate Church and State as we stated in the Constitution.  Oh, but states forget that and become Utah, Oklahoma and the such. 

n8dagr828.ng
n8dagr828.ng

Plus even in Indian Casinos, no drinks until Noon.  Last call 12:00. 

n8dagr828.ng
n8dagr828.ng

Try Oklahoma..you must be registered with the state to be a server and we have the archaic 3.2% laws and the state run liquor stores...and you can buy REAL beer in them but they have to be room temperature.  Surrounded by Oral Roberts University and the worst diet I've every seen from California, Illinois, Michigan, Colorado, Virginia, Brazil, Chile and Japan.  F**k this state and if only it wasn't so cheap to live in, but there is a reason.  Never move here!!!

AllisonGordy
AllisonGordy

It is illegal to be intoxicated on a Casino floor in the state of Missouri. You won't be arrested, but we will kick you out ;)

ClintonThomas
ClintonThomas

I don't drink many Anhueser-Busch products, but I'm thankful for their influence over the legislature here in Missouri.

lauriedtmann
lauriedtmann

I've lived in both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and the alcohol sales laws are MUCH more bizarre in Pennsylvania.  

LynneSharpNorris
LynneSharpNorris

I dont know where they got their information, but I live in Missouri and there absolutely are open container laws and public drunkenness laws.  And you can buy alcohol on Sunday, but not before 11 a.m.

elee554
elee554

In Hawaii alcohol is easily purchased from 6 AM to midnight from supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, etc. Of course 7-11 I.D.'s everyone, even 80 year olds who can barely carry the 12 pack to the checkout.

maude
maude

The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition. The 18th Amendment started it. Kind of crucial here.

PuddinTame
PuddinTame

I moved from Indiana (some weird alcohol laws, plus no Sunday sales for carry-out) to California some years ago.  I had not seen any information in the grocery store about Sunday sales, so I asked the cashier.  She didn't understand my question at first, then got it and said, "Oh!  Oh, we're godless here.  You can buy anything you want!"  :-)

nolaIRISH
nolaIRISH

What no New Orleans? I didn't even know what a last call was until I moved out of the state. You can buy any alcohol, beer, liquor, wine anywhere. What do I mean? Any gas station, grocery store, pharmacy is likely to have one up to several isles of alcohol. Mardi Gras? You know nothing. I can't believe Time considers you reputable. 

SethWaxman
SethWaxman

My guess is that the writer hasn't lost a family member or close friend as the result of drunken behavior.  I used to live in Wisconsin and I enjoy fine beer as much as anyone, but it sickens me when someone is killed by a driver who is permitted by judges to continue with driving privileges even after numerous DWI convictions.

emintey
emintey

This article sounds like it was written by an overgrown frat boy, loose alcohol laws are praised and restrictive ones are ridiculed.  However in New Jersey where beer cannot be sold at grocery stores you never see guys drinking and tossing their cans out of the window of the local 7-11 where kids go for snacks.

I'd take the more restrictive states any day.

SeanNeves
SeanNeves

Yes, the laws here suck (Utah). Real beer is available, but not on draft. Beer has an ungodly mark-up, but spirits don't. Wine from small producers is cheaper here than anywhere else. 1.5 ounces of primary alcohol and one ounce of secondary alcohol in a drink is allowed and added wine, fortified wine and beer to a drink is allowed too. So yes, you can get a real drink here. A Long Island is not a drink. It is a means to getting sloshed.


The problem is only partially the draconian retail laws, but a large chunk of bar owners love the restrictions. Only a small (but growing) portion of bars pour a true 1.5 ounce shot. The dirty little secret is that they love these laws.

US_exceptionality
US_exceptionality

http://imgur.com/yTXizBN

Do you know, why the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights)concluded, that the  Khodorkovsky case is not political and confinement in prison has legitimate?


CharlesHammond
CharlesHammond

This list makes no sense whatsoever. Someone in PA is put-upon because he can't buy liquor after 10pm? What about the hundreds of counties in the South where you can't buy any liquor at ALL (so-called "dry counties")???


This list was clearly forumulated by a Yankee (and I'm saying that as a Yankee myself). Let's put it this way: when it comes to driniking, I'd much rather be in MA or PA than in any of the many "dry counties" of the south.

GregoryRobertGrant
GregoryRobertGrant

Yep try to imagine it, in Pennsylvania you have to buy alcohol directly from the state, there are no private liquor stores in PA.  And the state stores are only open during normal business hours, so if you need a bottle of wine or liquor after say 10pm, you can forget it.  And it's so hard to get a liquor license that something like half the restaurants in the city don't serve alcohol.  Six packs of beer, where you can find them, are about twice as expensive as anywhere else in the country.


On the other hand the state makes a LOT of money from this, so PA state income tax is low.  In fact it is the lowest of the states that actually do charge income tax (six states have no income tax).

StuartStewart
StuartStewart

The only place you can get liqour until 2 a.m. in Wisconsin is a bar. The convenience stores have to stop selling at 9. 

Dr_D_
Dr_D_

In matters of booze, no single law can satisfy all. Should law-makers think of different laws within the same state?

justinat88
justinat88

Drinking is good...


I enjoy drinking.  I live in SC and I have a problem with this stupid Blue Law that prohibits me from buying booze on Sunday.  

lew.bryson
lew.bryson

@glasraenActually, those stores have to have a restaurant license AND a sit-down eating area. So...they ARE restaurants. One more ridiculousnessitosity of PA liquor laws.

KenBarnett
KenBarnett

@TroyCarsey Oh boy. Better mark this article as a farce for using weight instead of volume. That .8% difference is something to to be angry about.

KalebRippstein
KalebRippstein

@LynneSharpNorrisWrong.  In your town that may be the law, but that is NOT state law.  You can buy alcohol much earlier than that in Columbia on a Sunday.  Not sure the time, but I've purchased as early as at least 9.  There are no open container laws for the state, nor are there any in Columbia; however, Boone County does have an ordinance.  See... it matters where you live.  You can drive down I-70 with an open container, and about half of the time it's perfectly legal, and the other half of those miles you're in violation.

JohnOverman
JohnOverman

The hours are M-Sat 6am-130am and Sunday 9am-12 midnight

rca343s
rca343s

@LynneSharpNorris There are no state-wide open container laws but cities can pass them. There are ZERO public intox laws in the state. You can get arrested for any number of things while drunk in public but being just drunk isn't one of them.

SuperWittySmitty
SuperWittySmitty

@maude That's exactly what this refers to, the 21st Amendment. The 18th was invalidated and is no longer recognized. That is what is crucial. No need to revisit the 18th- it's down and out.

mpv24
mpv24

@SethWaxman They changed the DWI laws in Wisconsin years ago. That's not the case anymore. I know people with a single DUI who can't drive or, if they can, have to blow into the car.

KalebRippstein
KalebRippstein

@emintey, I have never have seen that in Missouri either, buddy.

Mattimus
Mattimus

@emintey really? i grew up in Missouri and never saw that behavior. Way to go, spouting off about something you know nothing about.

lew.bryson
lew.bryson

@CharlesHammondWe have dry townships and towns in PA, Charles, 28% of the townships and municipalities are dry. And there are only 600 liquor/wine stores in the entire state...about as many as there are in the city of Chicago. Pennsylvania has about ten times as many people as Chicago, and is, of course, much larger in area. We got a lot to complain about.

DDorrell86
DDorrell86

Its a list of states, not counties

lew.bryson
lew.bryson

@GregoryRobertGrantThe state doesn't really make that much. 3/4 of what it gets is tax, which would be collected anyway. The "profit" from the State Stores is less than 0.3% of the state budget: chicken feed in the greater picture.

RatedP
RatedP

@StuartStewart Yea in Milwaukee its a mad dash to hit the liqour stores before 9p!! Ha

kezersoze
kezersoze

@StuartStewart - not true. I've bought beer at plenty of stores in the Kenosha area at 11pm. There may be other cities that don't allow it, but it's not state wide

davidhoffman
davidhoffman

@Dr_D_ , What guidelines would you suggest? In Georgia the locals must vote on Sunday sales, but sales can only start after noon. Some places allow restaurants Sunday sales, but not packaged sales from alchohol stores or grocery stores. It can make Sunday purchases aggravating. If you visit someone in a county or city with no Sunday package sales, and you are used to buying on Sunday, it can make for some long driving to another county to get what you need.  I like the Nevada way. 

blowfly28
blowfly28

There is no such state wide law. Your city must prohibit it.

underwng
underwng

@kezersoze @StuartStewart

Towns can pass ordinances or they grant a license for places to sell beer later for carry outs (til midnight was my experience in Eau Claire). I remember that from my college days.

Dr_D_
Dr_D_

@davidhoffman @Dr_D_ Nevada law is okay as long as it does not create law and order problem. For instance, public drinking will always pose nuisance.

cdemcopeland
cdemcopeland

Uh, there are state-wide laws about no sale on Sundays - Minnesota has had one for over 70 years. And in Mass, where I lived for awhile, you couldn't buy on Sundays, until Thanksgiving - and then they would sell on Sundays between Thanksgiving and New Years.