Do Restaurants Sell Alcohol on Sundays?

Waiter Spilling AlcoholThere is no simple answer to the question of whether restaurants sell alcohol on Sundays. It depends on where the restaurant is located, what type of alcohol they serve, and what time of day it is.

Laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sundays are called blue laws. The laws regarding Sunday alcohol sales vary not only from state to state, but often from county to county. Restaurant owners should research both state and local laws before serving alcohol to the public to ensure that they are compliant with the blue laws in their area.

What states still have strict blue laws?

Thirty-eight of the 50 U.S. states still have some form of blue law, but most allow some type of liquor sales. Indiana is the strictest, with restaurants, convenience stores, and other retail locations in the state being forbidden from selling any form of alcohol on Sundays.

Twelve states have partial blue laws that prohibit the sale of distilled liquor, including mixed drinks. They include Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Utah. In these states, bars and restaurants can serve beer and wine on Sundays, but only if it is in a closed container, intended to be consumed off-premises.

Eighteen states have unrestricted alcohol sales, for closed containers of any kind. The alcohol in these states must also be consumed off premises. These states are: Alaska, California, Oregon, Arizona, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Maine, Delaware, Colorado, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In some of these states, like Missouri, restaurants can buy an additional license for Sunday alcohol sales.

In 16 states, alcohol laws are determined by the local government, so Sunday consumption laws vary from county to county. These states include Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Arkansas Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, and New Jersey.

In four states, Sunday alcohol sales are allowed in predetermined areas, or certain cities and demographic regions. These states include Virginia, Washington, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.

Are there exceptions to state alcohol bans?

Yes, there are certain areas within each state that are not subject to state law because they operate under their own law. Military bases of any kind are not subject to state, or local, alcohol laws. This is because they are under federal control, and as such are only subject to federal law. Base exchange stores and on-base restaurants can serve alcohol on Sundays as a result.

Indian reservations are also exempt from state and local law. Indian reservations are self-contained nations, and are subject to tribunal law. Restaurants on a reservation can sell alcohol on Sundays, unless there is a tribal ordinance that forbids it.

There are other interesting exemptions built directly into state blue laws. For example, in Maryland, alcohol can be served on Sunday as part of a religious service, and can be purchased on Sunday, in some townships, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

In Kansas, small wineries and dispensaries can sell alcohol on Sundays, despite local law. Other states allow Sunday sales after a certain time. For example, in some areas of Nebraska, a restaurant can serve alcohol after noon on Sundays.

Are there other laws that restrict restaurant alcohol sales?

Yes, many states have alcohol laws on the books of which a restaurant should be aware. The only way to become familiar with all of the laws that affect a restaurant’s right to serve alcohol is to research the city, county, and state laws for the restaurant’s operating location.

Strange laws that affect alcohol sales may limit alcohol sales because of other dishes being served, during certain hours, and more. For example, in Louisiana, restaurants that serve donuts and pastries cannot serve alcohol. So much for a cheese Danish washed down with a glass of wine!

Also, in South Carolina restaurants are banned from selling any alcohol on Sundays, but certain alcoholic beverages can still be served if they have been declared non-alcoholic by state law. According to South Carolina law, any malt beverage with less than 5% alcohol by weight and all wines under 21% alcohol by volume are considered non-alcoholic. This means that they can be served on Sundays, despite the strict blue law.

While Washington still observes a statewide ban on Sunday alcohol sales, restaurants are still generally allowed to serve alcohol on Sundays if they are located inside a sports arena and if a sporting event is taking place.

Finally, some states ban alcohol for holidays and election days, in addition to banning sales on Sunday. For example, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alaska, and Massachusetts all prohibit restaurants and bars from serving alcohol on Election Day.

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