Happy Repeal Day and Modern Prohibition

Today, December 5, marks the anniversary of the ratification of the 21st amendment which repealed the 18th amendment and ended Prohibition. Recently PBS released the latest fantastic documentary by Ken Burns, Prohibition. His three part film chronicles the rise and fall of one of America’s darkest times. Below is a trailer, but if you would like to watch the movie you can do so here.

I absolutely loved this documentary! Typical of most of his movies, Prohibition is really long, but I suppose not as long as the actual Prohibition (13 years for those counting). So make sure that your liquor cabinet and your fridge are fully stocked, because you are going to want to have a drink in hand while watching this. My knowledge of the noble experiment mostly stems from us history classes in high school, and I’ll be real with you, I wasn’t paying too much attention. Sorry teach! That being said, I learned a ton about Prohibition from this movie. The educational aspect of documentary film is one of its greatest assets and partly a reason why I want to make my own documentaries. I’m not going to write an all out review of the movie, because I think it would be better for you to just watch it.

Now to the real meat of this post. Even though the 21st amendment was ratified in 1933, there still remain a variety of looney and outdated liquor laws that vary from state to state. When I moved from Tennessee to California I was surprised to find that beer, wine, and spirits were all sold in grocery stores. In TN, only beer (and low gravity beer at that) is allowed to be sold where you get your groceries. The south seems to be a hotbed for all sorts of crazy liquor laws. Before living in TN, I grew up in suburban Maryland. When I moved to the south I was astounded by the number of dry counties. You read that right, DRY counties. Prohibition is very much alive in certain parts of this country. The Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, TN is located in one of these dry counties. They fortunately have a law in that county that allows them to continue t distill, but prohibits them from selling any of their product on the premises. Other southern regions are finally joining the 21st century and shedding their antiquated liquor laws. Just recently the state of Georgia has allowed people to purchase alcohol on Sundays.

Wikipedia has a solid state by state breakdown of all of these silly liquor laws. Many of these laws are either outdated remnants of Prohibition or are pushed through state legislatures by big beer business (Busch, Coors, & Miller) and by religious zealots.

Here is my list of the top states with the worst liquor laws. Avoid living here if you can:

  1. Utah – Beer over 4% ABV is prohibited. Until June 2009, bars and clubs were private clubs requiring a membership fee.
  2. Mississippi – Beer over 5% ABV is prohibited.
  3. Kansas – Prohibited on-premise alcohol sales until 1987!
  4. Pennsylvania – You can only buy a six pack of beer at a restaurant.
  5. Alabama – Beer containers may not exceed 16 oz. Bye Bye high gravity beers.
  6. Most states in the Bible Belt region
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