Alcoholic Beverage Laws: What's Illegal May Surprise You
It's illegal for restaurants in Virginia to sell real sangria. That's what the owner of a Spanish restaurant discovered after being fined $2,000. Fortunately, he escaped a $2,500 fine and going to jail, where he could have been imprisoned for a year. 1
The law, passed in 1934 after the repeal of National Prohibition, prohibits those licensed to sell alcoholic beverages from mixing wine or beer with other alcoholic beverages. Real sangria is made of fruit juice, wine and brandy. 2
The restaurant owner complained that it's as if the law said they couldn't sell paella, the signature seafood dish of Spanish cuisine. 3 State senator J. C. Petersen said that "Sometimes I feel in Virginia we're still working off a prohibition mentality." 4
He and his state are not alone.
- A 1933 law in Wisconsin prohibits elected officials from owning any business that sells products or services to those who sell alcoholic beverages. A man who sold vacuum cleaners to taverns and restaurants for decades was forced to resign his elected position. An effort is being made to repeal that archaic law.
- Laws in several states prohibit the sale of any beer that exceeds 6% alcohol. This prevents the legal sale of many expensive craft beers and ales that range from 7% to 14%.
- About one of every five states has a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on election days. The law prohibiting the sale of distilled spirits on election day costs the state of Idaho $400,000 each and every election day. 5
Brandon Arnold, a scholar at the Cato Institute observes that
"The U.S. is riddled with ridiculous state liquor laws that impose restrictions on the size of beer bottles, the number of ounces of spirits allowed in a particular beverage, and the percentage of alcohol in beer, just to name a few. These attempts to reduce alcohol consumption are misguided and often counterproductive. State governments should get out of the nanny business and allow responsible adults to enjoy the alcoholic beverage of their choosing." 6
For dozens more silly alcohol laws, visit It‘s the Law and Alcohol and Drinking Facts in States across the US.
- 1. Anita Kumar. Virginia's sangria ban at issue in 2 hearings. Washington Post, B08, January 24, 2008.
- 2. Mixed-up law: What we don't need: A ban on sangria. Daily Press (Newport News, VA), February 5, 2008.
- 3. Andrea Stone. Frustration over liquor laws brewing, USAToday, January 26, 2008.
- 4. Anita Kumar. Virginia's sangria ban at issue in 2 hearings. Washington Post, B08, January 24, 2008.
- 5. Andrea Stone. Frustration over liquor laws brewing, USAToday, January 26, 2008.
- 6. Natalie MacLean. Prohibition: The Sangria Sequel in Virginia. Epicurious.com, January 31, 2008.
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