In the United States, liquor sales are under the control of the government in almost all locations, including cities, counties or states. The laws do vary widely and can even contradict each other.
This makes it all confusing. I decided to do some research on this issue, and this is what I discovered:
When the prohibition ended in 1933, states were given permission to regulate sales of alcohol themselves. However, it caused a wide range of differences in laws from one state to another.
Several US states sell liquor at grocery stores. However, each county within the state has its own laws that regulate liquor sales.
In certain states, such as California, beer, wine, and liquor are available for sale at the grocery store. In others, you’re allowed to purchase beer at the supermarket; but to buy wine and hard alcohol, you need to make another trip to the liquor store.
Yet in others, such as Utah, alcoholic beverages are only available for sale at state-run facilities.
Apart from that, there are variations in periods/days during which you can buy liquor in some states. Let’s learn more!
States That Allow Liquor Sales in Grocery Stores
Here are the states that let you buy liquor in grocery stores:
- North Dakota
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
In California, alcohol can’t be displayed within 5 feet of the cash register if the outlet also offers motor fuel for sale.
Each of these states has its own limitations on liquor sales in grocery stores.
States That don’t allow alcohol sales in grocery stores
You’re prohibited from buying alcohol in grocery stores in Delaware, Alaska, and Pennsylvania.
There are no Sunday restrictions in both Alaska and Delaware. However, you’re only allowed to purchase alcohol at liquor stores. This includes any alcohol, such as beer, liquor, and wine.
As a matter of fact, if you’re in Alaska, you’re even prohibited from entering licensed premises if you’re not up to 21 unless you’re with a parent, guardian, or spouse who meets the age requirements.
Alaska, which has a bar for every sixty residents, is infamous for its high rates of alcoholism.
Consequently, they experience an extremely high rate of violence and crime that arises from intoxication. Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise to find that there are such harsh laws regulating sales of alcohol in Alaska.
Alcohol sales aren’t allowed in every grocery store in Pennsylvania. But you can buy beer from certain gas stations. You can also buy as many as two six-packs of beer from local bars.
However, the laws have started getting less stringent slightly with time as you can now buy alcohol in some grocery stores. The grocery stores with permission to sell alcohol have to do this at a different register.
Which states don’t offer alcohol for sale on Sundays?
In many states, there’s a prohibition against selling alcohol on Sundays.
However, even in states with such Sunday sales restrictions, there are exceptions. The majority of the states listed below have prohibited sales of liquor but still permit stores to sell beer and wine.
Some consider it more seriously by restricting Sunday sales at specific times of the day.
Here are the states with Sunday ban on alcohol sales:
|Arkansas||Sunday ban on alcohol and liquor sales in nearly all counties on and a statewide prohibition on Christmas day|
|North Carolina||Liquor stores operated by the state are closed, meaning sales of liquor aren’t allowed. You can buy beer at grocery stores throughout the day on Sundays.|
|Mississippi||While liquor stores are closed on Sundays, you can still buy beer at grocery stores.|
|Georgia||Alcohol sales are different from one county to the other. Counties that allow alcohol sales on Sundays can’t sell it until 12:30 pm.|
|Tennessee||Sunday ban on sales of liquor or wine, but beer is available for sales throughout the day.|
|South Carolina||Sunday ban on sales of hard liquor, but you can buy beer and wine all day.|
|West Virginia||Sales of liquor are banned, and wine and beer can’t be sold until 1:00 pm.|
|Texas||Sales of liquor are prohibited, and wine and beer can’t be sold until noon.|
Why are they referred to as blue laws?
These are laws made to prohibit certain activities on Sunday for religious reasons, especially for observing a day of worship/rest.
Certain states place a ban on car sales and horse racing on Sundays, and others prohibit hunting on Sundays. Yet in some states, there’s a ban on alcohol sales on Sunday.
I discovered 2 theories about the reasons why they’re referred to as blue laws. The first theory is that those laws were initially written on blue paper, and I’d always heard this.
But the more likely reason comes from the 18th-century use of the term “blue”. In that century, the meaning of “blue” is, rigidly moral in a disparaging manner.
The laws were initially enacted for encouraging church attendance and restricting activity to only the one deemed worthy of observation on the Sabbath.
In 1610, the first blue law was passed in colonial Virginia. And while it wasn’t referred to as a blue law, it stipulated that church attendance must be observed on Sundays. That law also restricted unsightly behavior.
People were penalized for drinking alcohol or engaging in public displays of affection, with penalties including paying large fines or facing confinement.
Eventually, blue laws went through a series of changes over time to involve the banning of tobacco and alcohol sales and unnecessary labor. Certain areas also banned specific types of entertainment.
Which states in the US still have blue laws?
Several states still observe blue laws. However, the majority of them have been repealed in the US.
Despite that, the Supreme Court has ruled that blue laws are in line with the Constitution. These laws make sure that mail carriers are given a day of rest.
They also guarantee that a day of rest is observed for religious reasons, and the laws help in protecting workers and families.
Certain states place a ban on specific alcohol sales, while others prohibit car sales on Sundays. Yet, other states restrict horse racing.
These are states following blue laws now:
|Arkansas||Sales of alcohol and liquor are banned in nearly all counties on Sunday and all over the state on Christmas day.|
|Georgia||Sales alcohol are different in the counties. Counties that allow sales on Sundays can only sell alcohol from 12:30 pm.|
|Illinois||Horse racing is banned on Sunday, with exceptions. Car sales are also closed on Sundays.|
|Iowa||Sales of cars and mobile homes are banned on Sundays.|
|Maine||Hunting is not allowed on Sunday, and on Thanksgiving Day, most businesses are prohibited from opening.|
|Maryland||Car dealerships are not allowed to do business on Sunday, with exceptions. Professional sports teams can’t play games before 1:00 pm on Sunday.|
|Massachusetts||Sales of alcohol are prohibited on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day as well as Memorial Day.|
|Minnesota||Car dealerships aren’t allowed to carry out business on Sunday.|
|Mississippi||While liquor stores are closed on Sundays, beer is still available for sale at grocery stores.|
|North Carolina||Liquor stores operated by the state are closed, meaning there are no liquor sales. Sales of beer are allowed at grocery stores throughout the day on Sunday. Gun hunting is not allowed between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm on Sunday.|
|Oklahoma||Car dealers can’t do business on Sunday|
|Pennsylvania||Hunting is not allowed on Sundays, except for crows, foxes, and coyotes.|
|Tennessee||Sales of liquor or wine are prohibited on Sunday, but beer is sold throughout the day.|
|Texas||Car dealers must not do business on either Saturday or Sunday. The dealer can select one from the 2 days. Sales liquor are banned on Sunday, while wine and beer can’t be sold until noon.|
|West Virginia||Sales liquor are banned on Sundays, while wine and beer can’t be sold until 1:00 pm. Hunting is not permitted in all counties, except 14.|
Did you find all the answers to your questions on why grocery stores don’t offer liquor for sale?
It can be pesky trying to buy alcohol, particularly liquor, when on a trip from one state to the other.
Laws are designed at the state level where they’re also regulated. Several states transfer that responsibility to counties and cities.
In the sections above, I’ve explained some of those regulations and blue laws, along with their effects on alcohol sales in specific states.
I also discussed which states permit liquor sales at grocery stores, in addition to any limitations. I even outlined those states in the US that prohibit liquor sales at grocery stores.
I do hope this guide does a good job of answering your questions on liquor sales across US states.
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Moses Dzarmah is the founder of Grocerycorridor. Having worked in the grocery store for almost all his life. His colleagues called him the grocery hermit for his knowledge around the field that’s encompassing. Almost disturbing that he’d know every nitty gritty part associated to grocery stores. I decided to pen down as my colleagues will endearingly say with a slight mockery “wealth of experience”.