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Beyond the Bottle: alcohol laws


 

Prohibition led to the decimation of the beverage industry, but it also dealt considerable damage to the restaurant industry. With a lack of revenue from liquor sales, food establishments struggled to generate enough revenue to support the bottom line. Jobs were lost. Crime drastically increased and states lost a revenue source. While it was considered to be a “noble experiment” it became widely regarded as a failure.  A few years later, the 21st amendment repealed prohibition and allowed for the recovery of the food and beverage industry.

The 21st amendment can be broken up into three sections. The first section of the amendment repealed the 18th amendment-the prohibition amendment. Jumping ahead, the third section states that the amendment must be properly ratified to take effect. Finally, the second section was then interpreted to give all the power of alcohol control over to the states. This means that each state has the right to decide for themselves how to control alcohol. Some states gave the power to decide to individual parishes, counties, and even towns. If a town or county decided to not allow the selling of alcohol, they are commonly referred to as “dry”. To this day there are over 200 counties that prohibit the selling of any type alcohol. This does not include the number of counties that have some sort of restriction on selling alcohol in some form or the numerous amount of dry towns.

With the continuation of dry areas, it hampers the opening of new business and innovation. It also brings barriers to existing companies. For example, in the town of Lynchburg, Tennessee it is illegal to purchase alcohol of any kind. This is particularly notable due to the fact that it is the town that Jack Daniels is produced. While visitors may purchase a commemorative bottle at the souvenir shop they cannot purchase Jack Daniels anywhere else in the county. This prevents local businesses from tapping into the tourist interests and serving mixed drinks featuring whisky.

However it is not just dry counties that can interfere with business. Oklahoma recently changed a law that stated that local breweries could not sell high point beer, any beer that’s not 3.2, on premise to customers. Before the law changed, local breweries had to deny customer requests to buy their product on premise. The breweries were also more pressed to make low point beer to improve their bottom line instead of creating micro brews of their choice. It also forced breweries to only sell samples of their high point brews on premise. However in August of last year, senate bill 424 allowed for breweries to sell full strength beer on premise. This helps breweries to be able to cater to their guests as well as increase profitability.

As in Oklahoma, alcohol laws around the nation are beginning to change and open up. While the change is headed to open up the laws and allow for a more progressive view on alcohol, it’s important to inform local lawmakers on the implications of their decisions. While alcohol is an integral part of the restaurant industry, it is also a controversial substance. This means that many groups will lobby for stronger alcohol control laws. In order to protect the best interests of the restaurant industry, restaurateurs and chefs need to be active participants in their local government. This way, the restaurant industry can continue to rely beverage sales as a substantial form of revenue.

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