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The 10 Weirdest Drinking Laws Throughout Time

While Prohibition might be over, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some legislation trying to curb our drunken antics. In fact, the weirdest drinking laws throughout time highlight some of the craziest ways access to alcohol has been regulated.

By Daniel RochaPublished 5 years ago 7 min read

When the topic of drinking laws is brought up, Prohibition is usually what initially comes to mind, as this marked a particularly stringent era of federal restriction in regards to alcohol. However, across the world, there are plenty of odd drinking laws that structure the ways in which we are or aren’t allowed to consume alcohol, and some of them certainly prove that truth is stranger than fiction. From banning certain types of alcohol to implementing meticulously specific laws about how or when it can be served, there are plenty of bizarre legal hoops that people have to jump through if they want to drink. The weirdest drinking laws throughout the course of history are comical reminders that alcohol and our aversion to it make us do strange things.

Inebriation in a Bar or Pub

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That’s right, across the world, there are laws in place that prohibit drunkenness in a bar… the place where people go to get drunk. In England, for example, the 1872 Licensing Act, which prohibits intoxication in a pub, is still in effect, although it is not actually enforced. You might be sipping on one of the most popular cocktails in the world, but technically, having one too many is against the law. A similar law exists in Alaska, but unlike England, the state still holds up to the legislation! In fact, officers in plainclothes are dispatched to bars to enforce the law, keeping an eye out for anyone getting a little too rowdy. As far as alcohol laws go, this seems a bit counterintuitive if you ask me.

Only in Nevada…

Nevada passed state laws that actually allow public intoxication, bringing a whole new meaning to the infamous catchphrase, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” While being drunk in public is technically legal, public intoxication can still be grouped in if you’re convicted of any crimes you may commit in your altered state. So yes, drinking to your heart’s content out in the open is perfectly acceptable, but recreating Fight Cub just because the whiskey’s hitting particularly hard will still get you in trouble. So, while you’re making the most of Nevada’s public intoxication laws, and (probably) Vegas’ non-existent open container laws while you’re at it, just try and keep the drunken shenanigans to a minimum.

No Cold Beer

“Cracking open a cold one with the boys” has become a viral rite of passage for nearly every frat boy across the US, but at one point, not everyone had access to a “cold one.” Oklahoma had a strict policy that prohibited some beers from being served cold. Instead, any beer with more than 4% alcohol by volume (ABV) had to be served at room temperature, and even liquor stores were banned from serving refrigerated beer. Oklahoma introduced new liquor laws in 2018 that changed this strange ban on cold beer and allowed stores to start refrigerating their beer selection, and so gone are the days of buying lukewarm beer and lugging it home to your own fridge. You can now enjoy a cold one from the grocery store in peace.

Government-Owned Alcohol?

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If you find yourself in Sweden looking for a beer with more than 3.5% ABV, you’ll have to go to Systembolaget, the government-owned liquor store chain that, not coincidentally, is the only place you can purchase a beverage with an alcohol content over 3.5%. Who hurt the Swedes? I mean, I guess this is an okay rule if you enjoy living in the prologue of a Black Mirror episode, but for anyone who has experienced the ease of picking up $5 bottles of wine at convenience stores, this regulation comes across as a little ridiculous. Sweden, you gave us IKEA, and for that, we will be eternally grateful, but I think the rest of the world had some advice on alcohol that you might want to take into account.

No Alcohol on Election Days

Until laws changed in 2013, in Kentucky and South Carolina and unless it was a special election, it was illegal to sell alcohol on election days, which means you had the pleasure of confronting the crippling failures of democracy while completely sober! Hooray! It’s unclear why these states banned the sale of alcohol on a day when people arguably need it the most, but alas, at one point in time, you couldn’t go out for a celebratory drink once you completed your civic duty. You could, however, wallow in despair on election day, which is always free of charge and still a viable option today.

No Giving a Moose a Beer

You read that right, giving a moose a beer is strictly prohibited in Fairbanks, Alaska. Why there is a specific mandate against providing alcohol to a moose, I’m not sure, but I do know that a law indeed exists that addresses this hilariously weird scenario. On the list of weird laws upheld in the United States, I think this one ranks pretty highly. While it seems a little absurd to have to explicitly ban this practice, it’s probably a good idea in the long run to avoid any drunken moose situations that might arise. So, while it might be difficult to fight the temptation, please refrain from any games of flip cup with the wildlife while visiting Fairbanks; it’s not worth it, trust me.

Distilleries in Dry Counties?

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Some of you already may know this weird American drinking law, but If you’re traveling to Tennessee and want to indulge in some Jack Daniel’s, be careful where you do it. The Jack Daniel’s distillery is technically located in a dry county, meaning you can drop all your cash buying the liquor, but you can’t drink in the surrounding area. Fortunately, an exception was made so that visitors don’t have to go full-blown Daniel Boone and wander about the Tennessee wilderness to find a place to take a sip or two of their Jack, but the fact that the laws had to be reworked to accommodate this is comically strange.

Similarly, Kentucky has several distilleries located in dry counties, meaning you have to be careful of where you down that world famous bourbon the state boasts about. Not entirely sure what the plan was here… Create a world-class liquor? Check. Make sure the distillery is in a county where it’s illegal to consume said liquor? Check. I guess Prohibition hasn't completely left us alone after all.

No Shots After Midnight

Well, this is an odd take on the whole “everything changes after midnight” rule from Cinderella. In Sydney, the largest city in Australia, bars and restaurants aren’t allowed to serve shots after the clock strikes 12, a law that was apparently introduced to quell the rampant occurrences of violence influenced by alcohol. What’s more, there’s also a limit on how many drinks you can buy after midnight; no one can buy more than four drinks at a time after 12, and after 2 AM, you can’t be served more than two drinks. Sorry, but it looks like you’re going to have to ease up on the cocktails as the night goes on. The takeaway here is obvious: If you’re looking to get belligerently drunk and wreak havoc in Sydney, you better pound your drinks before your carriage turns back into a pumpkin.

No Riding Cows

The aforementioned Licensing Act of 1872 strikes again, this time bringing a particularly weird drinking law to Scotland. This act dictates that it’s illegal to propel a cow while intoxicated, meaning you can kiss your drunken dreams of leading a charge of cattle on a warpath of destruction goodbye. Oddly specific, this law really makes us question why this issue needed to be specifically addressed in the first place; but at the same time, it’s probably for the best that we refrain from subjecting farm animals to our inebriated antics. So, step away from the cow slowly, before you find yourself in any hot water; besides, we’ve got mechanical bulls now anyway for when you get the bright idea that the best thing to do in your drunken stupor is attempt to mount a thrashing animal.

No Dirty Dancing with Drinks

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Delaware is channelling some big “that town from Footloose” energy by banning the sale of alcohol in any establishment in which dancing simultaneously takes place. That’s right, you can’t purchase alcohol to give you that liquid courage you might need to conquer the dance floor; instead, you can awkwardly sway to the beat while contemplating your sobriety. Fun, right? If you need something to loosen up a little, you’ll have to get your fix somewhere else, because Delaware is NOT here to see your messily attempt to show off your “killer dance moves” that you swear were a huge hit at your aunt’s wedding.

So there you have it, some of the weirdest drinking laws that prove we’ve still got an incredibly complex relationship with alcohol. While drinking responsibly should always be a priority, some of these laws might go a little too far in setting up parameters for drinking. So, if you find these laws completely outlandish, cherish the freedom you have to drink how you like, from making your own concoctions to taking advantage of happy hour deals. There are so many unique drinking rituals around the world, and for every unique way to consume alcohol we come up with, we'll also come up with a weird law to regulate it.


About the Creator

Daniel Rocha

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