Alcoholic beverage control state

"ABC stores" redirects here. For the Hawaiian convenience store chain, see ABC Stores (Hawaii).

Alcoholic beverage control states, generally called control states, are seventeen states in the United States as of 2016, that have state monopoly over the wholesaling or retailing of some or all categories of alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits.


At the beginning of the temperance movement in the United States, many states controlled where and when alcohol could be sold. Before this time, most alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption were often sold just like any other item of commerce in stores or bars. Because of heavy lobbying by temperance groups in various states, most required off-premises beverages to be sold in dedicated stores (primarily called dispensaries) with controls over their location. To further enhance oversight of beverage sales, some states such as South Carolina operated state-run dispensaries.

Following repeal of national prohibition in the U.S. in 1933, some states initially decided to continue their own prohibition against the production, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages within their borders. Other states decided to leave the issue to local jurisdictions, including counties and cities, a practice called local option.

States were also able to restrict the importation of "intoxicating liquors" into their territory under the provisions of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution which, while ending the Federal role in alcohol control, exempted liquor from the constitutional rule reserving the regulation of interstate commerce to the federal government. Thus states which wished to continue prohibition could do so.

Among those states which chose not to maintain complete prohibition over alcoholic beverages, approximately one-third established government monopolies while the remaining two-thirds established private license systems. In its simplest terms, the license system allows private enterprises to buy and sell alcohol at state discretion. In actual effect, the license operates as a device of restraint and not merely a grant of privilege or freedom. In a constitutional sense, the license confers no property right and the exercise of its privilege is continuously contingent upon the holder’s compliance with required conditions and the general discretion of the licensing authority.

The remaining states adopted the monopoly system of regulation, the more cautious of the two regulatory frameworks. As alluded to above, under the monopoly plan the government takes over the wholesale trade and conducts the retail sale of heavier alcoholic beverages through its own stores. That is, the state itself engages in the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Most of these states have an "Alcoholic Beverage Control" (ABC) board and run liquor stores called ABC stores. In all monopoly states a parallel license system is used to regulate the sale and distribution of lighter alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine.

Beginning in the 1960s onward, many control states loosened their monopoly of beverage sales. States like West Virginia and Washington sold all of their state liquor stores to private owners,[1] while others like Vermont permit private store owners to sell alcohol on behalf of the state for a commission.

State listing

  State control of beer, wine, and spirits
  State control of wine and spirits
  State control of spirits
  Other alcoholic beverage control states

The eighteen control or monopoly jurisdictions as of February 2015 are:

  1. Alabama – Liquor stores are state-run or on-premises establishments with a special off-premises license, per the provisions of Title 28, Code of Ala. 1975, carried out by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.[2]
  2. Idaho – Maintains a monopoly over sales of beverages with greater than 16% ABV.
  3. Iowa – All spirits are sold to privately owned retailers by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division. Beer and wine can be sold by private license-holders.[3]
  4. Maine – State-contracted to private businesses for commission.
  5. Maryland – Private liquor stores sell beer, wine, and spirits in most of the state. However under state law, Montgomery, Somerset and Wicomico counties are county alcohol-controlled, which mandates that off-premises liquor sales are to be conducted only at county-owned and operated stores. An exception exists in Montgomery County, in that four grocery stores have grandfathered licenses.[4] Until 2008, Dorchester County was an alcohol control county until the County Council voted to permanently close the county owned liquor dispensaries, with subsequent change in the state law.[5] Until July, 2014, Worcester was an alcohol control county until the Maryland General Assembly abolished the Liquor Control Board by statute, replacing it with the Department of Liquor Control.[6]
  6. Michigan – Does not operate retail outlets, but maintains a monopoly over wholesaling of distilled spirits only.
  7. Mississippi – State contracted liquor stores.
  8. Montana – State contracted liquor stores, modeled after the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.[7]
  9. New Hampshire – Beer and wine can be sold at supermarkets and convenience stores. Liquor is sold only in state-run liquor stores.
  10. North Carolina – Beer and wine can be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. Other spirits must be sold in liquor stores owned by local ABC boards. The State ABC Commission controls wholesale distribution and oversees local ABC boards. Prices for bottles of liquor are specified by the North Carolina ABC Commission and are the same throughout the state. The price list is updated quarterly. "Sales" on certain liquors are held monthly, and all ABC outlets in the state use the same special pricing. "Holiday" or "gift" packages, typically released by distillers around Thanksgiving and Christmas, are sold at the same price as standard bottles of the enclosed liquor, regardless of the included accessories (flasks, rocks glasses, shot glasses, cocktail shakers, etc.)
  11. Ohio – Appoints businesses to sell liquor, as agents of the state, for a commission. These stores have a monopoly on sales of beverages with an alcohol content equal to or greater than 21.5% ABV (43 proof). Beer, wine, mixed alcoholic beverages, and "low proof" alcohol are sold by the aforementioned contract liquor agencies as well as by businesses (bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and gasoline/convenience store retailers) which have been issued an annual permit to sell. Privileges (such as sale for carryout only, or for consumption on the premises) and hours during which sales are allowed are dependent on the terms of the permit.
  12. Oregon – Beer and wine can be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. Other spirits must be sold in liquor stores operated and managed by state-appointed liquor agents who act as independent contractors under the supervision of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
  13. Pennsylvania – All wine and spirits are sold in Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board stores, known as 'State Stores'. Malt beverages are sold in case lots by licensed beer retailers known as 'distributors', and in smaller quantities by on-premises establishments. The number of licenses to serve alcohol (including beer and wine) in restaurants is limited based on county populations.[8]
  14. Utah – All beverages over 3.2% ABW (4.0% ABV) are sold in state-run stores.[9]
  15. Vermont – Liquor stores are state-contracted and licensed.
  16. Virginia – Beer and wine sold at supermarkets and convenience stores. All liquor stores are run by the state.
  17. West Virginia – Does not operate retail outlets, but maintains a monopoly over wholesaling of distilled spirits only.
  18. Wyoming – Does not operate retail outlets. Maintains monopoly on wholesale importation. Although licenses are issued by local licensing authorities, all liquor licenses must be approved by the state, and licenses are limited by population density.[10]

About one-quarter of the United States population lives in liquor control or government monopoly states.

See also


  1. "The day liquor went private and prices stumped the public". Seattle Times. 1 June 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  2. "Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board". Alabama Administrative Code. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  3. Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (n.d.). "Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division". State of Iowa. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  4. Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Colburn (22 May 2008). "Senate Bill 154". State of Maryland. Retrieved 18 Feb 2014.
  7. "Department of Revenue – State of Montana". State of Montana. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  8. PLC. "PLC quotas" (PDF). Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Retrieved 18 Feb 2014.
  9. "Utah Code Section 32A-1-105". Archived from the original on February 10, 2008.
  10. WSLA. "WSLA common questions". Wyoming State Liquor Association. Retrieved 18 Feb 2014.

External links

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