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Because alcohol has such a deep and somewhat tumultuous history in the U.S. (think prohibition), there are some strange liquor laws that are still on the books across the country. Liquor laws vary by state, and so does the craziness surrounding them as well as the regulations you and your restaurant will have to be compliant with in order to get a liquor license.

If you’re wondering if the shenanigans are high in your state, take a look at this list of states with some of the wackiest liquor laws.

How hard is it to get a liquor license in your state? These states take the top of the list.

barman hand at beer tap pouring draught lager beer serving in a restaurant or pub.


There are no open container laws in Savannah or Roswell, so you can drink away without worry. However, beer with ABV above 14% is illegal across the board, but kiddos under the age of 21 can drink if they’re at home, their parent or guardian gave them the drink, and their parent or guardian is present.

In Georgia, kids under the age of 21 can drink as long as they’re at home.


Typically alcohol can be sold in Alaska between 8 am and 5 am, except for election days when liquor stores can’t open until the polls close (how patriotic!). Also, although the legal drinking age is 21, underage consumption is allowed for medical purposes (whatever those might be) and, like Georgia, under special circumstances with parental consent.

restaurant licensing and permits guide cover

When all is said and done, to obtain even just one of the proper licenses and permits can cost as much as 10,000 dollars. Luckily, the only resource you’ll need to open your doors with the right licenses and permits is here.

Get The Guide


Unsurprisingly, Utah is nuts when it comes to liquor laws. Even if you’re not hungry, the only way you’re getting booze in a restaurant is by ordering some food too since restaurants aren’t allowed to deliver alcohol to a table without food on it. Also, as of 2012, restaurants have to mix drinks in a place where customers can’t see it (?!), which locals jokingly call the “Zion Curtain.” Beer sold in grocery stores can only be 3.2% ABV, while draft beer must be 4.0% ABV. Also, drinks can only have 2.5 ounces of liquor in them. There’s nothing that stops you from ordering multiple drinks, but you can’t make anything a double in the land of Life Elevated.


If Utah has some of the quirkiest laws, Pennsylvania has some of the strictest. Likely thanks to the state’s Quaker origins, wine and liquor can only be sold through some 600 state-run stores.


Happy hour fans won’t love life in Massachusetts —happy hours and any other kinds of drink specials. Oh, and drinking games aren’t allowed either (sorry trivia lovers).


Like Massachusetts, happy hour is banned in Indiana… but all-day drink specials are not. Drinking on the cheap for a whole day is A-Ok in Indiana, but having specials that last for a couple of hours is a no-go. Except for Sundays—there’s no selling booze of any kind on Sundays (except a winery or brewery, so there’s your loophole).


On any regular Sunday in Maine, you have to wait until 9 am to be able to buy your booze, but not on St. Patrick’s Day. If the Irish holiday happens to fall on a Sunday, alcohol can start flying off the shelves at 6 am instead, carving out three extra hours for green beer consumption. Mark your calendars: the next time this will happen will be in 2019—not too far away to plan a trip!

Check out Upserve’s Licenses and Permits Guide!

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Cinnamon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and journalist who paid a large part of her way through college and graduate school by serving. Her work has been published with outlets like National Geographic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. You can read more about her at www.cinnamon-janzer.com.
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