Why Grocery Stores Don’t Sell Liquor and States That Allow it

The reason why grocery stores don’t sell liquor is because alcohol products are under the control of the government. However, the laws in each state varies. Some even contradict each other. This makes it confusing sometimes to determine whether it’s legal to buy alcohol or not.

I thought of doing some research on this issue, and here is what I discovered:

When the prohibition of alcohol ended in 1933, states were given permission to regulate the sale of alcohol themselves. However, it caused a wide range of differences in laws. 

Several US states sell liquor at grocery stores. But each county within the state has its own laws that regulate liquor sales.

In states like California, liquor is available for sale at grocery stores. In others, you’re allowed to purchase beer at the supermarket. But to buy wine and hard alcohol, you need to make a trip to a liquor store.

In Utah, alcoholic beverages are only available for sale at state-run facilities. Besides that, there are variations in 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:

  • Nevada
  • Washington
  • California
  • Arizona
  • North Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • New Mexico
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • Michigan
  • Wisconsin
  • Indiana
  • West Virginia
  • Massachusetts

States That don’t allow alcohol sales in grocery stores

It’s illegal for you to buy alcohol from grocery stores in Delaware, Alaska, and Pennsylvania. There are no Sunday restrictions in both Alaska and Delaware. However, you’re can only purchase alcohol at liquor stores.

If you’re in Alaska, you’re prohibited from entering licensed premises if you’re not up to 21. The only exception is if you’re with a parent, guardian, or spouse who meets the age requirements.

Alaska, which has a bar for every 60 residents, is famous for its high rates of alcoholism. Consequently, they experience extremely high rates of violence and crime because of intoxication. It doesn’t come as a surprise to find that there are such harsh laws regulating the sales of alcohol in the state.

In Pennsylvania, alcohol sales are illegal in every grocery store. But you can buy beer from certain gas stations. You can also buy two six-packs of beer from local bars.

Which States Don’t Offer Alcohol for Sale on Sundays?

Liquor store with the statue of Mary inside

The states listed below have bans on the sale of liquor for different reasons. Some restrict Sunday sales to specific times of the day.

Arkansas Sunday ban on alcohol and liquor sales in nearly all counties on and a statewide prohibition on Christmas day.
North Carolina Sales of liquor is illegal in stores operated by the state. 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 is illegal. Wine and beer can’t be sold until 1:00 pm.
Texas Sales of liquor are illegal. 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 and observing a day of worship for God. They were enacted for encouraging church attendance.

Certain states also place a ban on car sales, horse racing, and hunting. Others ban alcohol sales. I discovered two theories on why they’re referred to as blue laws.

The first theory is that those laws were initially written on blue paper. The second theory comes from the 18th-century where the meaning of “blue” is rigidly moral.

In 1610, the first blue law was passed in colonial Virginia, though it wasn’t referred to as a blue law then. People were penalized for drinking alcohol or engaging in public displays of affection. The penalties include paying large fines or facing confinement.

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. These are the states currently following blue laws:

Arkansas Alcohol and liquor sale is illegal in nearly all states and counties on Sunday and Christmas day.
Georgia Stores can only sell alcohol from 12:30 pm on Sunday.
Illinois Horse racing and car sales are illegal on Sunday, with exceptions.
Iowa Cars and mobile homes sales are illegal on Sundays.
Maine Hunting is illegal on Sunday and on Thanksgiving Day.
Maryland Car dealerships are illegal on Sunday, with exceptions. Professional sports teams can’t play games before 1:00 pm on Sunday.
Massachusetts Sales of alcohol are illegal on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Memorial Day.
Minnesota Car dealerships are illegal on Sunday.
Mississippi Liquor stores are closed on Sundays, but beer is available for sale at grocery stores.
North Carolina State-operated liquor stores are closed on Sunday, but grocery stores remain open throughout the day. Gun hunting is illegal between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm.
Oklahoma Car dealers can’t do business on Sunday.
Pennsylvania Hunting is illegal on Sundays, except the hunting of crows, foxes, and coyotes.
Tennessee Liquor or wine sales are illegal 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. Liquor sales are illegal on Sunday, while wine and beer can’t be sold until noon.
West Virginia Liquor sales are illegal on Sundays, while wine and beer can’t be sold until 1:00 pm. Hunting is illegal in all counties, except 14.

Wrapping up

It can be stressful trying to buy alcohol. You’ll find yourself going from one state to the other. That’s because strict state laws are regulating them. 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.

Also, I discussed which states permit liquor sales at grocery stores, in addition to any limitations. I outlined those states in the US that prohibit liquor sales at grocery stores.

In conclusion, this guide should do a good job of answering your questions on liquor sales across US states.