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In the United States, states are largely left to their own to make laws about the selling and consumption of alcohol. Thus, there is a proliferation of different laws that vary wildly from state to state about what kind of booze can be sold where. About the only constant at this point is the drinking age of 21, but that was only because it was tied to federal highway funds and no one wanted to miss out. Before that, drinking ages from state to state ranged from 18 to 21.

The state with the weirdest liquor laws in my opinion is Utah. But I live in New Jersey and it's strange here too. Most of the variations have to do with whether or not there are state-owned liquor stores, whether or not beer or wine can be sold in grocery stores or convenience stores, how bars and restaurants get liquor licenses, the hours of businesses that serve alcohol. I believe in South Carolina, bars can only serve mini-bottles, like you're on an airplane. So a screwdriver is a glass of orange juice and a little bottle of Smirnoff or whatever.

In New Jersey a municipality (and there are over 500 of them, there's no unincorporated land) can have one liquor license per 3000 inhabitants. A liquor licence enables a bar or restaurant to serve alcohol. The catch is that all the existing licenses when the law was passed about 20 years ago were grandfathered. So a town like Hoboken has more liquor licenses than current law would permit. Oh yeah, did I mention these licenses can be bought and sold like property?

It's even worse--some counties within states are "dry counties" where no alcohol whatsoever can be sold. Boy, that must depress property values. Of course, usually there are huge liquor stores and bars right over the county line where they can sell you booze, and people are now just driving for booze and probably endangering everyone in both counties. Woo-hoo.

There are actually dry cities, Damascus, Maryland is such a place. Alcohol is sold in stores right across the city line, but can't be sold inside the town itself.

Montgomery County, Maryland holds a monopoly on all alcohol sales in the county. Anyone who wants to resell alcohol (stores, resturants, bars) has to buy their supply from the county government.

While in general agreement with mrichich's impressions about the arbitrary nature of liquor laws, I did notice a few factual errors in his statement. For example, the declaration that New Jersey has no unincorporated land is patently false. I grew up in NJ, in an unincorporated area within Hunterdon County. There are huge areas, particularly in the more rural southern half of the state, that are unincorporated. ( I now live in Massachusetts, which is in fact entirely incorporated).

Also, liquor licenses can indeed be bought and sold (at least in NJ, NY and MA, the 3 states where I have personal knowledge) - but only with the approval of the licensing board of the local municipality. And this seems imminently fair - it takes time and effort to qualify and preserve a license, and by making it a commodity property, the holder of the license can use it to collateralize his business, and the community can be assured that the bar for entry into the business of selling alcohol is set high enough to discourage casual abuse.

'bar' for entry. heh.

Also, shouldn't laws be catalogued as 'ideas' rather than 'things'?

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