Going out for Spanish food in Virginia? Forget about ordering authentic sangria.
Want to toast your candidate on Election Day in Idaho? Better stock up on spirits a day before.
Looking for highbrow brew in Alabama? Head for Georgia.
Nearly 75 years after the repeal of Prohibition, some alcohol laws passed in the 1930s have become the target of connoisseurs who say they are as stale as old beer.
"We have a lot of antiquated liquor laws in Virginia that don't seem to have a lot of purpose in modern society," Delegate Adam Ebbin says. His bill to repeal a law making it illegal for restaurants to mix distilled spirits and wine was the subject of a hearing this past week.
Shana McKillop, the managing partner of La Tasca, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Alexandria, Va., had never heard of the law until a state inspector cited her for selling traditional sangria made with red wine and brandy. The restaurant could be fined $2,500 and lose its liquor license. She's appealing.
"It's as if the health department told us we couldn't serve paella," Spain's signature seafood dish, McKillop says. Now she's serving ersatz sangria with non-alcoholic triple sec. Customers have complained.
"Although there is no one here that was around when the Legislature passed the statute in 1934, I presume that the purpose was to encourage temperance," says Curtis Coleburn of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. "Adding the spirits increases the alcohol content."
Other booze bills in the works:
• A Wisconsin Assembly committee voted last month to repeal a 1933 law that prohibits local elected officials from owning businesses that sell products or services to liquor-license holders. At least four have resigned, state Rep. Louis Molepske says, including Stevens Point Councilman Norm Barber, who has sold vacuum cleaners to taverns and restaurants for 35 years.
• Idaho lawmakers last week introduced a bill to repeal a 1939 law that bans distilled liquor sales on election days. That costs Idaho $400,000 in sales each time, state liquor chief Dyke Nally says. He says the law, similar to statutes in eight other states, is a relic of the days when saloons served as polling places. Delaware, Kentucky and South Carolina also have legislation to lift Election Day sales bans, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
• Beer enthusiasts in Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia are lobbying to overturn laws that ban sales of beer that exceeds 6 percent alcohol. Stuart Carter of the Alabama lobbying group Free the Hops says Belgian ales and craft beers, which range from 7 percent to 14 percent, appeal to tourists and aficionados and aren't the kind of brews preferred by binge drinkers.
William Perkins of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board supports state restrictions. "The intellectual argument ignores the ill effects of alcohol," he says. "Piling up more beers, no matter how tasty or expensive or exclusive, doesn't make sense."<
Carter disagrees. The Scottish-born computer technician often buys beer in Georgia, which raised its alcohol limit to 14 percent in 2004 and is now home to 300 craft beers. In Birmingham, he says, "You can buy a case of Bud Light but you cannot buy one bottle of beer brewed by Trappist monks."