The post below was current for 2011. Read Michelle's updated data on holiday liquor laws for 2018 here.
If you were planning to go-a-Wassailing along this Christmas, you may want to read this post carefully so that you can plan your booze-buying accordingly this holiday season. The "blue laws," that still exist in many states, were originally intended to enforce religious worship. While most states have done away with the anachronistic rules, many still maintain bans on sales of liquor on Sundays, election days, and certain holidays. Since this Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, about 27 states in the union have some kind of blue law or another that will severely limit its residents' ability to get booze, regardless of whether or not they are religious or celebrate Christmas.
Most of the states listed below have limitations on off-premise sales of alcohol (that is liquor shops) but some also limit or prohibit all liquor sales, including serving in bars and restaurants on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Most of the states on the list below have state-wide prohibitions, but for some states the laws governing liquor are county-by-county. Even if your state doesn’t make the list, individual stores may elect to close on Christmas Day so you should prepare head of time so you won’t be forced to take drastic measures.
Alabama only allows off-premise sales of liquor through state-run stores, all of which will be closed from 4pm on Christmas Eve until the following Tuesday.
Arkansas not only prohibits sales of take-away liquor, but also prohibits
Colorado lifted the Sunday sales ban in 2008, however, off-premise alcohol sales are banned on Christmas Day. If you’re really in need you’ll be happy to know that you’ll be able to buy 3.2 percent ABV beer at grocery stores (if they’re open) on Xmas.
Connecticut bans Sunday liquor sales *except “for alcoholic liquor that is served where food is also available…or by casino permittees at casinos.” In addition, if Christmas falls on a Sunday, off-premise sales are also prohibited on the following Monday.
The District of Columbia, oddly, bans Sunday sales of liquor unless Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday -- then stores are allowed to open on December 24. Of course, since Christmas Day is on Sunday people in the district will have to get whatever alcohol they want from grocery/convenience stores (or neighboring states).
Georgia: All alcohol sales are generally prohibited on Christmas Day. However, cities with more than 400,000 residents may allow alcohol sales after 12:30pm on Christmas.
Indiana liquor stores are forced to close while restaurants and bars are banned from Christmas Day alcohol sales, but may serve alcohol by the glass on Christmas Eve.
Maryland: Oh, Maryland. The state that I currently call home has a labyrinthine system of liquor laws, which means that rules vary widely from county to county. Particularly confusing is the fact that while the state itself is not a “control state” meaning that the state doesn’t own or operate liquor stores, Montgomery County is a “control county” that shuts down its liquor stores on Christmas Day (according to the Chief Operator of the Montgomery Dept. of Liquor Control). Other counties in Maryland, such as Prince George’s, will have sales on Christmas.
Massachusetts like Connecticut prohibits off-premise sales on Christmas day as well as the following Monday if Christmas falls on a Sunday.
New Hampshire: Wine and beer can be purchased in NH grocery stores, but as a “control state” liquor can only be sold at state-run stores. While there’s no official prohibition on the books, the office of the Liquor Commissioner informed me that the liquor stores will not be open on Christmas.
New York prohibits off-premise alcohol sales “on the twenty-fifth day of December, known as Christmas Day.”
North Carolina, a control state that prohibits liquor stores from selling on Sundays as well as on Christmas day.
Ohio (edit): According to a state official at the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, “In Ohio, all Agency Outlets (spirituous liquor) are privately owned and operate on a Contract with the Division. By policy the outlets are closed on Christmas Day.”
South Carolina: While there is no official ban, yet, on Christmas Day sales in SC the department of revenue has stated several times over the years that liquor stores must not operate on Christmas Day. South Carolina also bans the serving of spirits or liquor stores from opening on Sundays (with a few exceptions).
South Dakota allows sales of malt beverages, like beer, but on Christmas Day liquor and wine may not be served or sold.
Tennessee: Liquor stores must be closed on Sundays.
Texas law bans the sale and serving of hard liquor on Sundays and Christmas and when Christmas falls on Sunday as it will this year the law requires liquor stores to close Monday as well. There is, however, a handy loophole in the law that will let you order liquor with food between 10am and 12 on Sundays, so you can still have your Bloody Mary or Mimosa with brunch.
Utah state stores are closed on Sundays and Christmas. Bars and restaurants that choose to stay open on Christmas are allowed to serve alcohol according to agents at the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.