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Old 08-24-2008, 01:37 AM
Location: Texas
112 posts, read 300,783 times
Reputation: 98


Someone got me to thinking about buying alcohol in the US. Here, we can buy beer, wine, and spirits in the supermarket or an off license.

I know in Texas there are "wet" and "dry" areas, and some areas you can buy beer and wine but not spirits.

What are other states like? We are most likely moving to New Jersey, or possibly any of the southern east coast and south coast states.

No, we don't drink a lot but I would rather be prepared if we need alcohol for an event or something. I don't think that shipping all the alcohol we have accumulated over the years will be very good either!

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 08-24-2008, 04:15 AM
Location: Near Devil's Pond, Georgia
424 posts, read 1,458,275 times
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The regulations on alcohol sales vary widely by state AND city or county, so the issue is rather complex. You will discover that states, cities, and counties regulate the types of alcohol that may be sold (beer, wine, liquor, etc.), permitted alcohol levels (including perecentage of alcohol in beer and the sale of reduced alcohol in some spirits), establishments permitted to sell certain alcohol classes as well as minimum/maximum quantity purchase requirements and whether the product can be sold only "hot" or chilled, hours and days of sale limitations, etc. OK, so that was not much help.

I will address as best as I am able some of the issues of retail (or package) sales as opposed to the rules regarding on premises sales and consumption, which is a different animal altogether. The easy part is as you are already aware some places are wet or partially wet while others are (bone) dry. In most states it is left up to local governments whether counties and/or cities permit retail alcohol sale AND what types of alcohol are sold there. So you will find some places, especially in the South where no alcohol is sold legally at retail, while others permit the sale of some combination of beer, wine, and/or liquor. It just varies and it is better to make inquiries about any particular place in which you have an interest. Most Florida communities have alcohol easily available, as do many parts of Georgia and other Southern states. If you don't find it right where you are you can usually get it within a reasonable distance except in a few states.

Some US states/cities/counties permit the sale of all types of alcohol in grocery stores and/or pharmacies, while other permit sales in attached or satellite facilities. Some permit only sales of beer and wines (no liquor) in grocery stores and pharmacies. Still others permit the sale of diluted spirits...such as reduced alcohol vodka in grocery stores while restricting full-strength products to traditional, i.e, standalone liquor retailers. Some locales permit all types of alcohol sales yet prohibit ANY sales at grocery stores or pharmacies. A number of states still operate govenment-owned (or franchised) retail outlets fo alcohol sales. These facilities have the franchise for selling all (or some) of the permitted products in their area. State stores might sell liquor while non-state stores might be permitted to see beer and/or wine. In some states and cities, if you want to buy beer, you have to go to a special retailer or warehouse type operation where you must purchase by the case. If you desire a single or less-than-case purchase you might have to go to a pouring establishment and purchase it over the counter at the bar at typically inflated prices. Many locales that permit retail beer and wine allow the purchase of individual containers and multipacks at convenience stores. In many (maybe most) states, all alcohol sales are by private retailers, licensed by the state and local governments involved. In any event, the actual days and times permitted for retail sales will vary widely. Some states prohibit ALL Sunday retail alcohol sales while in others it is left up to the county and city governments. Sales on certain holidays and other special days might also be restricted. You will discover that in some areas retail sales of some or all alcohol are shut off before midnight, while in others some or all alcohol might be allowed until midnight, 1 AM, or even later. Some areas might have no hour restrictions at all.

Some states, cities, and counties have rules on the legal maximum alcohol percentage in beer and wine. That limits the availability of certain products, especially imports. Still others have restrictions on brewpubs and microbreweries. On top of it all, oftentimes it is technically illegal to transport alcohol from one jurisdiction to another in many cases because of tax issues (alcohol taxes are NOT uniform) or because some or all alcohol may be illegal at the intended destination or at any point along the route of transit. This is a holdover from some of the old bootlegging laws, and is sometimes enforced, depending on the politics of the time and the whim of local law enforcement.

Some states permit the purchase of wine via post or package delivery services. Some do not permit this. The benefit is for small wineries whose products might not normall be available widely through traditional distribution channels.

So, did I clear things up? No, I didn't think so. If anything, I made the waters muddier. So here is what I CAN tell you. I live in Georgia. Statewide there are NOT sales of alcohol permitted on Sunday or Christmas Day at retail ANYWHERE...no liquor, beer, or wine. Most counties are wet to some degree...at least beer and wine. All the larger cities and counties also usually permit liquor sales. MANY smaller rural counties and towns ALSO permit retail sales of liquor. Except in a few areas of the mountains and South Georgia, one does not have to drive far to get beer, wine, OR liquor. All retail outlets for alcohol are privately owned. Liquor is NOT sold in grocery stores or pharmacies. Depending upon the city or county, liquor MIGHT be sold in the same store as beer and wine, whereas in some separate facilities are mandated. In some case the separate facility is merely a door into the adjacent sales area of the same store. Although I'm not sure on this one, I believe the state DOES now permit the purchase by post of some wine from out of state wineries. One is free to purchase less-than-case size beer at retailers, although some locales MIGHT restrict the purchase of chilled individual containers at convenience stores, etc. When it gets close to midnight on Saturdays evening at ALL retail establishments, stores will halt retail sales...some stop even earlier to comply with local laws OR to ensure they do not jeopardize their retail alcohol license.

You brought up one other point. I'm not sure WHAT the legal issues are for importing personal stocks of alcohol from a foreign land. There may be customs excise issues as well as outright prohibitions. I'm sure you can find out more as moving date and destination become clear. Some movers will NOT knowingly transport alcohol...I think more for the risk of getting involved in some smuggling/bootlegging issue as much as anything else. Some might consider it the same as shipping dangerous or flammable liquids.

Hoping that you don't go banging your head against the wall with all this useless information, I wish you luck in your relocation.
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Old 08-24-2008, 05:02 AM
Location: By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea
50,238 posts, read 35,729,738 times
Reputation: 23390
In NJ all alcoholic beverages come from 'liquor stores' or deli type stores holding liquor licenses. Depending on where in NJ you are some grocery chains have associated liquor stores adjacent to the groceries so it's quite convenient. There are also some very well stocked wine stores in the NY metro area.
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Old 08-24-2008, 06:31 AM
Location: Tolland County- Northeastern CT
4,457 posts, read 5,818,956 times
Reputation: 1237
In Connecticut the laws are weird.

Only beer can be sold in supermarkets- no wine or liquor.
But all three can be sold in Liquor stores.

Liquor or 'Package stores' are not open Sunday-some of the states Colonial blue laws still around- although the state did give them the option to open Sunday-but since all Package stores are privately owned they opted out.

Package stores are all closed here on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, 4th of July, Good Friday, Labor day, Memorial day- and beer cannot be sold in supermarkets.

Although supermarkets are open Sunday- the 'Beer section' is 'covered up'

All Wine, Spirits and beer can be sold in restaurants on Sunday and holidays.
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Old 08-24-2008, 12:55 PM
Location: Texas
112 posts, read 300,783 times
Reputation: 98
Thank you all!

It is very helpful indeed, yours too Buckhead - as it just helps me understand it all a bit more.
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Old 08-24-2008, 07:40 PM
Location: Fredericksburg, Va
5,023 posts, read 12,194,477 times
Reputation: 6969
In Va., you can buy beer and wine in almost any grocery store. Liquor has to be bought from a state Alcoholic Beverage Control store (ABC). In the ABC stores, you won't find beer or wine.
It does vary from state to state.
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Old 08-24-2008, 08:37 PM
Location: somewhere
4,264 posts, read 7,729,539 times
Reputation: 3113
In New Mexico you can buy wine, beer and liquor at the grocery store. In Texas you had to buy your liquor at a liquor store, then we moved here and viola one stop shopping. So our WalMart carries anything you could want.
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