With an uneasy relationship with booze stretching back to depression-era prohibition, and hailing as far back as America’s temperate puritan roots, you may be surprised to learn that much of the south east of the country continues ‘dry’.
Whilst seeming something of a killjoy mentality to our sozzled Irish way of thinking (particularly when abroad) it’s worth noting that local penalties can be considerably heavier than back home for flouting local drink laws. Beware the seemingly innocent act of cracking open a beer in the street. You might attract the attention of your friendly local law enforcer.
What actually constitutes ‘dry’, however, is a confusing legal minefield. A dry state doesn’t mean alcohol is forbidden per say, but that local laws, which can vary greatly between and even within counties, must be enacted to allow its sale and consumption.
With Kentucky having 55 dry counties out of 120, and only 33 ‘wet’ counties, the remaining 35 are ‘moist’, which means alcohol is permitted within certain fairly inconsistent limits – some ‘dry’ counties have ‘wet’ cities within them. Some wineries are allowed to operate in dry states and so on.
With the Deep South our next destination on our virtual tour of America, we thought it only sensible to give you the heads up on local drinking laws before you get stuck into the local hooch, so you don’t you don’t wind up with getting ploughed down by the blues and twos.
Mississippi and Tennessee are entirely dry by default, which is ironic since Jack Daniels makes a virtue of being Tennessee whiskey, and yet local laws are complex, varying greatly between counties. In Tennessee, for example, you can only buy wine and beer in a liquor store, and can drink on a Sunday from licensed premises, but in Mississippi is it nigh on impossible to get hold of grog on a Sunday in most counties, and there are many counties in which it is illegal to possess alcohol. And Drinking under the influence is considered a felony the third time round. You have been warned!
Alabama is relatively lenient with alcohol sales allowed until 2am on the day of rest in most counties, and it’s to hell with it in Louisiana, with 24 hour bars common in New Orleans, and the seemingly idiosyncratic concept of a drive-thru-daiquiri stand not only legal but common!
With Kansas having among the strictest drinking laws in the USA, 29 counties still do not permit the on-premises sale of alcohol, and comprehensive ‘open container’ laws are strictly enforced to prevent public drinking. Kansas’ attitude to drinking can be summed up by the po-faced scowl of prohibition era anarchist Carrie Nation, who once patrolled the state enforcing her anti-drinking stance in the state by vandalising illegal drinking dens and terrifying patrons with a hatchet and a grim expression.
These days, while you’re unlikely to be subject to violence for your Irish attitude to drinking, you’re still likely to be met with mild shock and tarred with the alcoholic brush if you profess to enjoy more than the odd beer, particularly if you stray out of big cities, although rural USA is famed for its lethal ‘moonshine’ homebrews.
And yet the irony of all these attempts at enforced temperance is that ‘dry’ county drinkers merely hop across to a wet county by car resulting in more drunk driving incidents as people head to the borders to imbibe booze. Which seems a little counterintuitive. But hey, welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the US of A!