Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Morning Rant: Alcohol Laws

In my professional life, the freedom sapping policies that bother me most are consequential things like torture, excessive government surveillance, and the other civil liberties issues longtime readers have seen me cover. But in my personal life, it's restrictions related to the sale of alcohol that drive me nuts: Alabama's longtime prohibition on beer with the alcohol content of an average IPA; the baffling law in New York State that prevented my girlfriend and I from sharing a sample of whiskey when we visited a distellery; the fact that prior to a party I threw I couldn't buy alcohol at the Costco in Virginia; the notion that it is illegal for me to go down to a California beach on a Saturday at twilight and sip a cocktail at the water's edge as the sun sets.

-Conor Frieedrsdorf

To which I say A-MEN, BROTHER. He's talking about the law prohibiting taco trucks from selling beer, which actually seems like one of the least-ridiculous alcohol laws out there, at least if you accept the fact that open container laws already exist, but it's still a symptom of the whole silly enterprise. He doesn't even mention some of the weirder ones I've encountered, like in one of the Carolinas (I can't remember which), where bars can't sell mixed drinks, but you can buy a coke and one of those little airplane bottles of Jack Daniels and mix it yourself. In Florida, every grocery store has to have it's own separate liquor store next door, so if you want a bottle of hard stuff, you have to go through the whole check out rigmarole twice. The restrictions on certain alcohol contents of beer mentioned above are particularly stupid in a world in which liquor (or, for that matter, wine) is legal. I lived in Georgia for a long time, so that state's laws really get under my skin. You can't buy alcohol on Sunday, which is not only incredibly inconvenient but seems like a pretty clear violation of the separation of church and state. Some counties are "dry", so you can't buy alcohol at all. I almost have more respect for whatever Footloose-style city council voted that in, instead of putting all these chicken shit regulations on it (of course, all the rich Klansmen on the city council in such places made sure that the county lines are drawn so that the country club is on the other side of the line).

Get this: when I moved to Athens in 1991, they had a very reasonable open container policy. You could be drinking at a bar, and you could pour your beer into a plastic cup and go for a walk downtown. It was nice. It really added to one's enjoyment of the city and its nightlife. But shortly thereafter, the city council passed a stricter open container policy that ended this practice. Now, I'm not saying that there wasn't some problem with public drunkenness or DUI's in that town, but I really doubt these new restrictions did much to reduce those problems. But here's the kicker: the one time when that city really did have a serious problem with public drunkenness and DUI was always game days. When the Georgia Bulldogs (the football team, of course--nobody gave a shit about their champion basketball team, they all wanted to come out and watch their dead-last football team) played, the population of the town doubled for a day, with obnoxious drunks falling down in the streets and the roads clogged with drivers on their way out of town who had spent all day getting as shitfaced as possible. So of course, we wouldn't want the open container policy to interfere with that beloved tradition, so they included a clause saying the law was NOT in effect on game days! The sheer, baffling, outrageous stupidity of this drove me out of my mind!

But that's the thing with all of these laws. They don't actually stop anyone from getting drunk, from getting too drunk, from getting too drunk and acting like an asshole in public, or from driving drunk. They just make life more inconvenient and miserable.


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