More of the craziest state alcohol laws


We at the R Street Institute recently debuted our America’s Worst Drinks Laws report, recounting what we viewed as the 12 worst alcohol laws in America. Insider has gotten into the act with a list of “7 states that have strict laws about how and when you can drink alcohol,” including interesting ones from Alaska, Utah, and Massachusetts:

[E]ach state still has its own unique liquor laws, including where you can buy alcohol and what times you're allowed to buy it. Many states have time restrictions on Sundays and restrictions on obtaining alcohol licenses…

Bars and liquor stores can't open until polls close on election days in Alaska.

On election days in Alaska, businesses that sell alcohol must stay closed until polls close. It is also illegal to be drunk on the premises of a bar or restaurant that sells alcohol, and bars can't sell alcohol at a discounted rate unless the discount is regularly given every day of the week…

In Massachusetts, out-of-state IDs aren't proof of age at bars.

Massachusetts has some of the most strict alcohol laws, including that bars don't have to accept out-of-state IDs as proof of age. Happy hoursfree drinks, and drinking games like beer pong, are also prohibited in the state…

For the rest of the article, see here.

Mini Bottles of Alcohol Banned in Massachusetts Town


We recently highlighted an article by Wayne Curtis on the history of mini bottles in America and the various government efforts to regulate and ban them over the years. Now comes news from the Boston Globe that the city of Chelsea, Massachusetts is banning them, blaming the bottles for the city’s public drunkenness problem:

This city wants to take a bite out of its public drinking problem. Well, a few nips, anyway. And the liquor industry is fighting back.

Chelsea this year became the first municipality in Massachusetts to ban the sale of the ubiquitous little liquor bottles, blaming them for contributing to public drunkenness in the downtown area it has worked hard to revive.

In pulling nips from store shelves last March, the city took a step that many others have considered without any real success, given the opposition from the package store industry.

Not surprisingly, the clampdown has sparked a backlash from Chelsea’s liquor stores, which have appealed the ban to the state, arguing it was approved without any evidence the stores themselves have done anything wrong…

Read the rest here.

Dunkin' Donuts to Offer Beer



Boston Dunkin' Donuts are set to start selling beer in the fall, according to US Magazine. Some fast food restaurants, like Taco Bell, have tried to offer alcohol in the past. This will be an interesting development to follow:

Boston-based Dunkin’ Donuts is teaming up with another Beantown staple – Harpoon Brewery – to release a beer this fall, and it could be a total game-changer. reports speculation first arose that Dunkin’ might be dipping its toes into the beer business in early July when three labels for the upcoming beverage were filed with the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Per the labels, which have all been approved, the beer will be called Dunkin’ Coffee Porter and will be bottled and canned in the brand’s iconic pink and orange colors...

Read the entire article here.

Task Force Recommends Changes to Massachusetts Alcohol Laws


Massachusetts appointed a task force to review its alcohol laws, and the task force's recommendations have now been released. According to the Boston Globe, they call for higher booze taxes but also the elimination of many antiquated regulations:

"The price of beer, wine, and liquor in Massachusetts would increase, but unpopular restrictions on the sale of alcohol would go away, under a radical proposed overhaul of the state’s byzantine booze laws that’s expected to be unveiled by a government-appointed task force Thursday.

The proposals include increasing the state’s excise taxes on beer, wine, and liquor by about 50 percent and banning discounts for package stores and bars for buying bulk quantities from wholesalers.

If the measures are enacted, the companies could pass some or all of the new costs onto drinkers, while the state would reap tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue.

But the task force also recommends relaxing rules that annoy shoppers and businesses alike, saying that the state should abolish the limit on the number of alcohol licenses grocery store chains can hold, allow bars to accept out-of-state photo IDs, and permit brew pubs to sell beer through other retailers.

The group also proposed making it easier for business to obtain all-alcohol licenses while limiting the issuance of beer-and-wine-only permits. That could lead to more establishments that sell hard liquor, rather than just beer and wine.

While most of these measures would need approval from the Legislature, they nonetheless represent the most extensive official rethinking of alcohol rules in Massachusetts since many were put in place at the end of Prohibition in 1933..."

Read more here.

Debate: Should Massachusetts Raise Its Alcohol Taxes?


As a Massachusetts task force considers ways to modernize the state's alcohol laws, The Boston Globe has hosted an ongoing debate on whether the Bay State should raise its alcohol taxes. The debate has featured multiple different voices arguing "yes" or "no" to the tax raise. Here's a sample:


Kerrie D’Entremont, Executive director, Greater Lowell Health Alliance

Today, when someone says “substance abuse,” the first thing many people think of is opiates. But there is another form of substance misuse and abuse that we as health professionals have been fighting for well over 30 years: alcohol...

Excessive drinking has serious consequences. One in three car accidents in the United States involves drunk driving, and according to American Health Rankings, an average of 2.5 million years of potential life were lost annually due to excessive drinking from 2006-2010. Binge drinking also puts a strain the economy. In 2010 the median cost of excessive drinking was about $5.6 billion in Massachusetts. Whether an individual participates in excessive drinking or not, we all pay.

So how do we reduce the excessive drinking rate and the drain on our wallets? One of the strategies recommended by a federal task force in 2015 was to increase the tax on alcohol. The research suggests that there is an indirect link between the cost of alcohol and the number of deaths and injuries that are related to alcohol use. Simply put, “for every 10 percent increase in price, alcohol consumption is expected to decrease by more than 7 percent,” the task force said...



Joe Selby, Owner, Kappy’s Fine Wines & Spirits, Everett


Next time you’re in New Hampshire, take a spin through one of the state liquor store parking lots and pay special attention to the number of Massachusetts license plates you see. Every time a Massachusetts resident shops in our neighboring state, the Commonwealth loses money through lower business and payroll taxes paid by Massachusetts businesses, and lower alcohol excise taxes collected from the Commonwealth’s liquor, wine, and beer wholesalers.

Now, Beacon Hill is entertaining a proposal to shift more revenue to New Hampshire, by raising alcohol excise taxes here in Massachusetts. People heading over the border to shop is a longstanding problem for Massachusetts, but the state seems all too eager to not only exacerbate the problem but to do so on the backs of the Commonwealth’s lower-income residents, who tend to be the hardest hit by ultra-regressive taxes like excise taxes...

You can read the rest of these opinions here, and another point vs. counter-point on the tax here.

Massachusetts task force may fall short of goal to create "21st century alcohol law"


Massachusetts recently formed a task force with the goal of creating "a 21st-century alcohol law" for the state. But according to a report by the Boston Globe, it looks like the 21st century may still allude the Bay State when it comes to booze:

"Key members of the state's alcohol industry are tempering expectations that a task force reviewing Massachusetts' booze laws will deliver sweeping reforms to how beer, wine, and spirits are sold and distributed in Massachusetts, saying it's more likely to result in modest tweaks.

The task force, charged by state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg with creating 'a 21st-century alcohol law,' on Thursday issued a preliminary report identifying 12 issues, such as trade practices, licensing rules, and retail sales, that it intends to take on.

The list includes a number of highly controversial policy questions that have long divided businesses, health advocates, and policy makers.

Several alcohol-industry executives and lobbyists on committees advising the task force, however, sounded skeptical the effort can somehow solve these knotty, perennial disagreements. While more meetings are scheduled, they said they remain more or less entrenched in their existing positions..."

Read more here.

Total Wine wins lawsuit against Massachusetts on discount pricing

Total Wine continues its efforts to challenge state laws that restrict alcohol retailing. As Dan Adams reports for The Boston Globe, the chain alcohol store prevailed in a lawsuit brought by Massachusetts alleging that the store was selling their booze below-cost, in contravention of state law:

"A Boston judge has ruled that Massachusetts alcohol retailers can legally sell booze at deep discounts when they order it in bulk, rebutting state regulators who said the practice can violate a state law that prohibits selling alcohol at less than cost.

The decision Tuesday by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Robert B. Gordon came in response to a lawsuit brought by the country’s largest alcohol chain, Maryland-based Total Wine & More, against the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

In January, the agency slapped Total Wine’s Everett and Natick stores with several-day license suspensions for allegedly selling Smirnoff vodka, Bacardi rum, and other liquors for $1 to $6 below their wholesale costs. State alcohol laws and regulations forbid retailers from offering such below-cost 'loss leaders,' a policy the state says is necessary to prevent excessive drinking and predatory pricing.

Total Wine sued to overturn the license suspensions. The company argued its prices for consumers weren’t actually below its costs but were based on quantity discounts the company expected to receive from its wholesalers later on, after it had ordered enough of the products to qualify. The ABCC, Total Wine said, unfairly refused to acknowledge the true, ultimate cost of the liquor to the company, and instead looked only at initial invoices that listed a higher cost.

Gordon, the judge, agreed, saying the ABCC’s 'starchy' and 'semantic' definition of cost 'bears no rational relationship to the legislative policy of prohibiting anti-competitive pricing practices.'

'There was clearly no predatory pricing carried out in this case,' Gordon wrote in his decision, 'only a salutary effort by a retailer to pass along savings derived from volume purchasing at the wholesale level to its customers. This is something the law should promote rather than punish.'..."

Read the whole article here.

Massachusetts wants to update its alcohol laws. Not all are happy.

Dan Adams from The Boston Globe reports on the looming fight over reforming Massachusetts' antiquated booze laws:

"When Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg last year announced a major push to rewrite the state’s alcohol laws, the message was clear: Our antiquated and confusing booze rules frustrate businesses and consumers.

“We’ve been building on a post-Prohibition law with little fixes here and there, but we need to do more than technical fixes after there’s been a problem,” Goldberg said at the time. “We want to try to anticipate the market, and ask, ‘What does a 21st-century alcohol law look like?’ ”

But just as the treasurer’s Alcohol Task Force begins its work in earnest this month, with a series of public hearings and a call for proposed changes, a legion of public health advocates has suddenly jumped into the debate.

Their message is also clear: Not so fast..."

Read the rest:


For Total Wine, it’s total war against alcohol regulations

Total Wine & More, the Maryland-based alcohol retailer, has been behind several recent pushes to loosen and reform booze retailing laws around the country. Dan Adams of The Boston Globe reports on the store's latest reform efforts in Massachusetts:

"Total Wine & More is waging total war on the nation’s alcohol laws — and Massachusetts is the new front line.

The largest retailer of beer, wine, and liquor in the country, Total Wine has successfully challenged longstanding alcohol laws in numerous states, tilting the marketplace to its advantage through a mix of litigation, lobbying, and rallying support from customers.

Alcohol sales on Sundays in Minnesota? Allowed as of February, thanks to a years-long campaign by Total Wine. Later closing time for liquor stores in Connecticut? That was also Total Wine. Ditto for overturning a ban on volume discounts in Maryland, and lifting the cap on the number of store licenses in South Carolina.

In Massachusetts, Total Wine has sued to invalidate a state regulation that prevents retailers from selling alcohol below cost, a common practice in other industries. The company is also about to launch a public relations campaign here challenging a state rule prohibiting alcohol retailers from issuing discount coupons and loyalty cards...."

Read the rest here:

Total Wine's retail cap fight in South Carolina was recently discussed by R Street's Jarrett Dieterle in this op-ed as well as a 3-part blog post series for the Federalist Society (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Free America’s beverage markets!

R Street's Kevin Kosar writes:

Some alcoholic beverage sales policies are sensible. Disallowing the retail sale of intoxicating beverages in the wee hours of the morning aims to decrease dangerous behavior by stopping already-intoxicated individuals from buying more alcohol and getting drunker still. Requiring anyone who makes alcoholic beverages to specify a beverage’s alcohol content is truth in labeling.

The sensible policies, sadly, are not the only ones. Myriad regulations bear no relationship to the public good, limit consumer choice and profit the politically well-connected at a cost to the public. Some examples include:

(1) In Massachusetts, the Demosthenes Greek-American Democratic Club got hauled before state regulators for buying liquor from…a liquor store. By diktat of the state government, such establishments may only purchase from wholesalers....