Missouri vs. Kansas: Blue Laws, CMB's, Dry Counties, Oh My!

Full disclaimer: KCBeerblog and Brett A. Myces are not attorneys. Contact an attorney for any confirmation, questions, or interpretation of these laws. Everything written on here is from the internet so do your own research and due diligence.

It was back in the infamous fall of 2008, that a young Brett Myces moved to Georgia and quickly learned a harsh lesson on the disparity between each state’s liquor laws. I had just gotten moved into my apartment and went to the local Kroger to buy some groceries. It was a gorgeous fall Sunday afternoon, and I needed some food and beer for Sunday night football. I sauntered through the stored and placed my easy mac, beef jerky, hamburger helper, and Doritos, in the cart when I decided to take a gander down the alcohol aisle. I first noticed that none of the lights were on but thought it was a way to save on the electrical bill. Next I placed a six-pack from the multinational-conglomerate, watered-down, cheap-beer section. (I was young, cheap and naive, and still without my student loan check) and started looking for some McCormick Vodka (I was REALLY young, dumb, and poor). That is when I noticed a manager making a beeline for my cart while berating me like an 8th grader who snuck into the girls locker room. She started yelling at me, “This is Sunday we have blue laws, and if you want liquor, go to a liquor store.”

My initial reaction was, “Are these blue law’s, a reference from the movie Old School?” I was born and raised in Missouri, where it is normal to purchase booze and groceries at the same place. Little did I know, after talking to several classmates there are a lot of states with these “weird” laws.

This story has been my inspiration for my newest blog post of Liquor laws of Missouri

Most of my fellow beer historians know that prior to Anheuser-Busch selling out to become a multinational-conglomerate, they were actually an iconic Missouri company. With the lobbying power of A-B, Missouri has some of the most liberal state alcohol laws in the country. We have no dry counties, very limited Sunday sales restrictions, or public intoxication laws. Missouri does have a law against being intoxicated and disorderly, so don’t run around like a drunk obnoxious fool. Plus, Missouri does not have an open container law, but several cities, counties, and other jurisdictions do, so have an open container at your own risk, and ALWAYS have a sober driver. Finally, Harry Truman would start every morning off with a walk and a shot of bourbon.

Compared to our neighboring state Kansas, which will forever be known as the state that started the prohibition movement, and outlawed alcohol in 1881. Kansas actually had the longest prohibition of any state in the country, with prohibition only ending in Kansas in 1948. Almost 70 years long. Kansas has a definition of a “cereal malt beverage” being a beer with a maximum of 3.2% alcohol by weight (which works out to 4% alcohol by volume (ABV)--the typical alcohol percent number reported by the breweries). These CMB’s are the only things gas stations, grocery stores, etc. are allowed to sell. So read the fine print when buying beer at your Kansas Quick Trip or Wal-Mart, you won’t get the buzz you were expecting. Just like Georgia, spirits and beer greater than 3.2% are only for sale at liquor stores.

Kansas also has a multitude of dry counties as well as a holdover from prohibition. When prohibition ended in 1948 (still amazes me that it went all the way to 1948), each county was given a choice: unregulate liquor sales, remain a dry county, or go somewhere in between. That somewhere in between is where most counties ended up, including Johnson County. Wyandotte, Leavenworth, and Douglas counties on the other hand when full on wet. The middle ground constitutional option is why we don’t have “bars” in Johnson county. Based on the Kansas Constitution, all bars in Johnson county must get at least 50% of their revenue in food sales, officially known as “taverns.” Hence, no Westport, no nano-breweries taprooms in JoCo. Unless the KS constitution is amended, JoCo will forever be the land of the sports bar.

Liquor restrictions in the US by county--blue counties have full liquor sales, yellow have mixed regulations, and red counties are fully dry counties.

It was only in this decade, that Kansas allowed happy hour, let you buy beer on Sundays, and allowed tasting events at liquor stores. Kansas still forbids the purchase of any alcohol besides these CMB’s on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, if Sunday sales are allowed in your jurisdiction, then you are only forbidden from purchasing these beverages on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The moral of this story is plan your holidays in Missouri.

If you want a better summary of each state’s alcohol laws you can read the wikipedia page for Missouri and Kansas. Here is a very well written summary at legalbeer.com, and laws for every state at stateliquorlaws.com.

What other “weird” liquor laws are out there?

Brett A. Myces and Jay Aber

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