Every state has laws regulating the sale of alcohol, both in retail stores and establishments that sell alcohol for on-premises consumption. Off-premises alcohol sales are those that take place at a retail store that will be consumed in another location and are subject to these controlled state laws.
A controlled state should not be misunderstood as a state that restricts the availability of retail alcohol sales. All 50 states and the District of Columbia regulate when and how alcohol can be sold. Most states limit alcohol retail sales at certain times of the day, with the prohibition lasting from around 1 or 2 am through 6 to 10 am depending on the state. In addition, there are 12 states that still don’t allow off-premises retail sales of alcohol on Sunday, even though they still allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol 7 days a week.
So, what is a controlled state?
A controlled state refers to any one of the 17 states that have established complete control of the distribution and sale of alcohol. Most of these states have Alcohol Control Boards that establish government-run stores, or ABC stores, so that they have complete control over the sale of alcohol. Others control distribution and sales by limiting inventory and tracking alcohol sales at independent retail establishments.
In either case, a control state takes over at least the wholesale side of alcohol retail sales. The goals are moderation of the consumption of alcohol for the public good and increases in revenue for the state. Control states usually require identification when alcohol is purchased, not just to ensure that the customer is of an appropriate age, but also to limit alcohol consumption in general. In these cases, the state sets limits on how much alcohol can be sold to one individual within a specified amount of time.
The 17 controlled states are:
· West Virginia
· New Hampshire
· North Carolina
A controlled state sets the minimum wholesale price of the alcohol being sold to approved stores, which in turn sets the price for the consumer. When liquor stores are both state-run and state-owned, all alcohol sales benefit public services and the community.
What is the purpose of a controlled state?
There are usually two things that drive a state to control alcohol sales: the desire to limit the overall consumption of alcohol and to create revenue for state programs. Because these states are trying to decrease the epidemic of alcoholism, they often pour at least part of that revenue into alcohol treatment programs.
By requiring an ID to buy alcohol in the state, states can regulate how much alcohol someone is allowed to buy before they are flagged as potentially having a drinking problem. From there, different states handle that information in different ways. Some states may push alcohol treatment by providing funds from alcohol sales to allow everyone to receive treatment, regardless of ability to pay.
Benefits of an alcohol-controlled state
Those who praise controlled states offer up many benefits for doing so. When an ID is scanned for every alcohol purchase, controlling the sales of alcohol can dramatically decrease instances of public intoxication, drunk driving, violence, property damage, and other public nuisances or disturbances.
Controlling the sales of alcohol also benefits the community. This is especially the case when alcohol is sold in government-run retail stores, as the sales generally go to the public good. The profits from the sale of alcohol, spirits, beer, and wine usually benefit schools, public transportation, infrastructure, and other public services. The citizens of states that control alcohol sales in this way often enjoy a better quality of life with lower tax rates.
The downsides to control states controlling the retail sales of alcohol
There are minimal downsides for the community to controlling the sale of alcohol in a state. However, there are those who argue that controlling how much alcohol they are able to buy is a breach of their rights. This is the biggest reason that other states have not adopted the controlled model that has proven to be so profitable for the 17 states that have implemented it. Because these states have had the control system in place for so long, they don’t get push back from their citizenry.