Liquor Laws Specifics to Know for Your Bar - dummies

Liquor Laws Specifics to Know for Your Bar

By Ray Foley, Heather Dismore

Most areas have very specific liquor laws for bars. The government specifies when, where, in what container, in what quantity, and sometimes even at what price a bar, restaurant, or club can serve alcohol to its customers. These laws can affect how you run your business, like the equipment you must use, the extent of your food menu, and your hours of operations.

If you don’t follow the law, you risk paying fines, getting sued, facing criminal charges, or losing your bar.

Here are some specifics that may apply to your business. Be sure to check with your governing agency for details.

  • No discounts: You may not be allowed to discount liquor in your area. Offers like happy-hour drink specials or 2-for-1 deals are common in some areas and unheard of in others.

  • No location that may corrupt others: You may not be able to locate your bar within a certain distance of other buildings, such as churches and schools.

  • No doubles: Some areas set the amount of alcohol in individual cocktails and require that bars use metered pouring systems to dispense the alcohol. These systems may include giving individual-serving size bottles (think airline bottles) to patrons or using automated dispensers.

  • No tabs: In some communities, patrons aren’t allowed to run tabs.

  • One at a time: Some states don’t allow more than one drink in front of a patron at a time. Others limit only liquor and allow as many draft beers in front of a patron as you can fit on the table.

  • No glassware with logos: Some states have no restrictions around placing logos for alcohol brands on anything. Others won’t allow it on any vessel (think beer mug or pint glass) that holds alcohol.

  • Food is required: You may not be able to serve liquor to a patron if she hasn’t also ordered food. Some states require only that the drinker has access to a menu.

  • No alcoholic doggy bags: Some states allow patrons to take their unfinished bottles of wine home. Others prohibit it.

  • Limited or no sales on Sunday: Liquor sales may be limited on Sunday. These laws, lumped together, are called blue laws. Some states don’t allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays, others allow it in restaurants, and others have no restrictions.