Dallas Confronts Its Drinking Problem


Since I no longer live in California, I do not get to vote on legalizing marijuana next week. But since I live in Dallas, I do get to vote on legalizing alcohol. You thought "dry" and "wet" counties were confusing? Dallas is divided into dry and wet precincts. These are not voting precincts but justice of the peace precincts, and they are not the current J.P. precincts but the ones that existed at the time when voters decided to go wet or dry. To the right (courtesy of the Advocate, a local magazine) is a simplified map of the boundaries, and here is a more detailed one. The Advocate helpfully explains the ins and outs of this bewildering system and how it came to be.

Bottom line: It makes no sense. You can buy beer and wine in some grocery stores (e.g., the Whole Foods on North Central Expressway) but not in others (e.g., the Whole Foods on Preston Road). In some restaurants you can order a drink in the usual way; in others you have to join a "private club" first. Two citywide initiatives on this year's ballot would eliminate this crazy quilt of arbitrary restrictions. Proposition 1 would allow grocery and convenience stores throughout the city to sell beer and wine (but not liquor). Proposition 2 would eliminate the stupid private-club requirement for ordering cocktails in areas that are currently dry. Advocate sums up the significance of these measures:

It's almost impossible to overstate how important next month's wet-dry election is in Dallas' social and cultural history. It's not only the biggest wet-dry election in U.S. history since the end of Prohibition, but it's also a landmark moment in Dallas. Since before Prohibition—for almost 100 years—most of Dallas has been dry in one form or another. It has been as much a part of Dallas as 100-degree days and the Cowboys….

Dallas has changed significantly from the smaller, predominantly mainstream Protestant city of the 1960s and 1970s to a million-plus population urban center that includes more Catholics, Jews and non-denominational Protestants—all of whom are less concerned about alcohol.

Or more concerned, if the issue is finding it. Unfortunately, the ballot language for the wet propositions is so confusing that voters may not understand what the measures would accomplish unless they have done some resea

rch ahead of time. Here is how the ballot (PDF) describes the initiatives:

Proposition No. 1: "The legal sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption only."

Proposition No. 2: "The legal sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders only."

Both of these sound like they might be introducing new restrictions, especially to people who already live and dine in wet areas. Yet voters who want to liberalize the current rules should vote yes on both measures—or, as this double-negative sign suggests, vote against no.

NEXT: Esquire's Ten Best Members of Congress Hat Tips Nicely Toward the Sensible

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Obviously aimed at the “if I don’t understand it, I ain’t votin fer it” crowd.

  2. I don’t drink anymore…

    Fortunately, the rate I drank at continues to meet all my boozing needs, so I don’t drink any less.

  3. Despite the liquor system in my home state (Pennsylvania) comprising, along with Cuba and Berkeley, the last bastion of communism in the Western Hemisphere, at least we don’t have this kind of craziness.

    1. No, some Penna. townships do not permit restaurants to serve alcohol within the township boundaries. I live in one and all the wet restaurants are on the other side of the County Line road.

    2. Also, when I lived there, they couldn’t have full nudity at places that served alcohol. You had to go to BYOB places for that.

  4. Any polls on how these propositions are faring?

  5. But the choices on that ballot are for or against. So wouldn’t the proper choice be to vote against the propositions? I’m confused; lawyers must have written these props.

  6. I am going to Dallas for work next week. And I plan to have a big ol’ drink when I get there.

    OT: any restaurant recommendations?

    1. Semi-OT: don’t forget to visit The Galleria. (Unless you are the rare female who doesn’t like to shop). Every woman I’ve known who’s gone to (or lived in) Dallas has raved about it.

      1. Thanks! I definitely love to shop, especially anywhere with a slightly less oppressive sales tax than WA (so, everywhere).

        1. Everywhere but California, you mean.

        2. Should become a MT resident, than you can shop in WA with no sales tax.

        3. Can’t you just go to OR?

      2. NorthPark Mall is also pretty big and much closer to downtown.

    2. Don’t rent a car there, Dagny. Holy shit – the tax is ~25%.

      1. You didn’t think Jerry World was going to be paid for by Jerry, did you?

        It’s about as bad in Houston (vaguely remember TOT being in the neighborhood of 20%), and for similar reasons. Always amusing watching the city of Houston wonder why they had a hard time getting convention business, when they put the screws to anyone renting a car or hotel room in the area.

        Dallas restaurant-wise, the new Wolfgang Puck restaurant in the former Antares space (big dandelion-looking tower downtown) is supposed to be really good. If you like German food, one of the best German restaurants in the U.S. is in Plano (northern Dallas suburb), of all places.

        1. The new “Amway Center” (e.g., The DeVos Center for Welfare to Billionaires) here in Orlando is paid for by a “hospitality tax” – an oxymoron if there ever was one.

        2. I think Houston’s main problem is that there is no attractions whatsoever. Had a class project where we tried to come up with a slogan for Houston. best we had was “Hey at least the cost of living is cheap”

          1. Houston: Bigger and better than Rhode Island.

          2. That, and the fact that you can’t step outside for six months of the year without sweating your balls off. Seriously, it was 94 degrees here two days ago.

            1. And probably 94% humidity.

  7. Dallas’s crazy quilt of conflicting and contradictory booze laws resembles in microcosm what California may become under Prop. 19, unfortunately. Each municipality in the state will be free to interpret the law differently. The proposition seems to be poorly written and open to vastly divergent implementations. I guess it’s the best they could do, but the impending legal chaos (if it passes) may not be the best approach to pot legalization. It just might, in the long run, prove to be counterproductive.

    1. We can’t have local governments regulating the sale of products within their jurisdiction!

      We may as well repeal the 21st Amendment if there’s going to be confusion about alcohol laws.

    2. So what you’re saying is that Texans would be better off with complete alcohol Prohibition instead of their current “crazy quilt” system?

      That’s incredibly stupid.

      1. Texans would be better off with complete alcohol Prohibition

        I didn’t say that at all. I said that Prop. 19 risks making all of California into what Dallas is right now, by leaving it up to the discretion of the thousands of local governments as to how they implement the law. What’s perfectly legal in one area could land you in jail in another. How could anyone be expected to know how each and every one of a thousand municipalities has implemented the law? It could become contemporary Dallas on a gigantic scale. That’s all.

        1. The alcohol restrictions in Texas, and the marijuana restrictions in California proposed by Prop 19, are on sale, not possession.

          The retailers are responsible for knowing the laws in their jurisdiction, but the buyer doesn’t have to worry about being arrested if they live in a dry area or happen to drive through one on the way home.

          1. Prop. 19 restricts possession as well as sale:

            Proposition 19:
            The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010

            Title and Summary

            Changes California Law to Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed. Initiative Statute.

            Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old…

            All open to interpretation and abuse by local authorities.

            1. As opposed to the guaranteed abuse by local authorities under current law.

              “Oh no, it only repeals most of the bad law.”

              The oppression caused by dry counties is such a tiny fraction of the problems caused by Prohibition I still can’t see how you’re seriously raising the objection. Particularly when the Proposition is moving things in a good direction and repealing stupid laws, just not all of them.

            2. The Proposition does have a part that clearly infringes on the rights of employers to discriminate against pot users, though.

        2. Actually, it did sound like you said that, because the argument you made is the same one that all the no on Prop 19 people are making.

          I’ve never seen or heard of a dry county the bans possession, instead of sales. So first off it’s not all that hard to learn the local law when you’re operating a business, even if the local law sucks.

          Secondly, the vast majority of states allows for dry counties, even if many states don’t actually have any. See here.

          And forbidding dry counties is actually correlated with being an Alcohol Beverage Control state, because it all goes back towards wanting state control instead of local.

          1. Alaska is the only state I’m aware of that allows local governments to ban possession of alcohol. A number of towns (mostly on the North Slope I think) ban alcohol completely due to high rates of alcohol abuse among native Alaskans.

    3. OTOH, the existence of a ‘crazy-quilt’ pattern of legal and non-legal areas might draw attention to how stupid the whole WoD is.

    4. Wow, those anti-19 editorials are working. Scary.

      1. They aren’t working on me. I think for myself. I favor legalization and ending the war on drugs. But Prop. 19 has some serious flaws.

        1. The “serious flaws” are that it won’t forbid locale from making their own laws?

          Fair weather federalists are so common.

          1. We make a deal with the devil when we concede so much regulatory power to the state. A more perfect law would permit no more onerous restrictions on marijuana than any other crop. Why trade so much freedom for the inherent right to get high? If this makes me a “fair weather federalist” (whatever the hell that is) so be it.

            Regardless, it’s no skin off my ass. I don’t live there. I hope it passes, personally. It’ll serve as a useful lab experiment for the rest of the states, just as Massachusetts has with their mandatory health care scheme. We’ll learn from their mistakes and write better law next time around.

            1. Tossing fodder to reptilian brained petty beauracrats to act stupidly in the small areas where thy’re ‘in control’ (so far as they know) just doesn’t really bother me all that much, as long as the larger evil is struck down. The ‘patchwork’ dilema as such, is a red herring – with the Dallas example, while obviously ridiculous, just goes on the stack of other ludicrous ‘controls of alcohol sales I’ve seen over the years – having grown up in Alabama, with airline miniatures behind bars and button up tarps for convenince stores on Sundays, to living in Pennsylvania, where drinks in a restaurant are verboten inside a given borough, with a drive through liquor barn situated about 2 feet six inches across the borough limit. In each of those cases, there is ample opportunity to purchase and guzzle enough swill to sustain an all night prayer session at the great porcelain alter. I suspect California will be similar post-successful 19, minus the puking, of course.

            2. Regardless, it’s no skin off my ass. I don’t live there.

              Actually, apparently it is skin off your ass, because you seem to be really concerned about the possibility of some small locales passing laws to maintain the near status quo even if the statewide law gets repealed.

              Worrying about diversity and a patchwork of laws is a sure path towards being a statist. I don’t worry about them for the same reason that I don’t worry about individual abuses in a free market– competition in government in areas where there’s free movement of people has a salutary effect.

              I have never known a dry county with a neighboring wet county where the restrictions actually had a serious liberty reducing effect, not like statewide or nationwide prohibition. The size of government is just too small, and it’s too easy to evade.

    5. I live in the North Dallas area and, though it is a crazy quilt, it’s not that bad. On one level, I kind of appreciate the idea of individual neighborhoods settling standards of conduct rather than, say, the federal government.

      If I want to buy beer or wine, I have to drive or walk five blocks to the north. If I want to buy anything higher than 15% ABV, I have to drive a couple of miles south. At some restaurants I have to sign a slip of paper to indicate that I’ve joined their club. It’s ridiculous, but it’s no big deal.

      But to buy a reefer? It can’t be done legally because an overbearing federal government and an overbearing state government have mandated that it’s a felony for anyone to sell any amount of the killer weed to anybody else for any purpose whatsoever anywhere.

      Some libertarian purists argue that anybody ought to be able to open a porn shop, liquor store, brothel, “coffee shop”, opium den, crack house, or strip club anywhere they want, including next door to my house. They’re never going to get anywhere with that argument because most folks don’t want those establishments next door. But, if there are demands for such services within a region, some locality will find it sufficiently attractive to supply those demands. There’s a very good reason why red light districts exist, and an even better reason for conduct within those districts to be legal. It’s simply unnecessary for such conduct to be legal in every district for the demand to be supplied.

      1. alcohol is alcohol, not any one of “porn shop, liquor store, brothel, “coffee shop”, opium den, crack house, or strip club”

  8. Dallas has changed significantly from the smaller, predominantly mainstream Protestant city of the 1960s and 1970s to a million-plus population urban center that includes more Catholics, Jews and non-denominational Protestants

    WTF? That’s an argument?

    …Wait. Neocon sense tingling… Siegel… Rachel… Hypnotic cabalistic subtext detected…

    YOUR MIND IS GOING YOUR MIND IS GOING “Aw shit the Papists are here! Like the fuckin’ Unitarians weren’t bad enough. Jesus, I need a drink. …Wait. Is that a Jew?! What in the… Make that a drink from the grocery store.” DO IT DO IT DO IT

  9. My cousins live in Dallas. One works at a number of establishments that serve liquor. I had NO idea their laws were like this, and wouldn’t have expected it in a place like TX.

    Well, good luck with this Dallas-ites (Dalles-ers? Dallas-ans? Dallas-ganders?). It does make me appreciate that, as fucked up as Michigan is, I can pick up booze and beer pretty much everywhere except church.

    1. The problem with Texas liquor laws is that there are too many fucking Baptists here.

      1. Bullshit, JD. Everyone knows that it’s only the atheists that want to take away people’s freedoms. Liquor laws obviously have to be the fault of atheists.

        1. Yeah, the atheists…and those meddling kids….

        2. My mistake–of course it was the athiests who ran Texas in the 1930’s and 40’s who put these asinine laws in place.

      2. As long as they don’t recognize each other in the liquor store.

      3. The problem with Texas liquor laws is that there are too many fucking Baptists here.

        Southern Baptists specifically. And yes, those bastards could fuck up a wet dream.

        1. And they’d consider doing so a feature, not a bug.

  10. The little town I used to live in operated much like this. North of 12th street, no sales at all. South of 12th, package sales. No restaurant service at all until after the election in ’06, I think. I spent that entire election day explaining the proposition to people because it was worded bizarrely, just like these are.

  11. And as long as it’s a booze thread, I’m going to repeat my request for microbrew recommendations in Wisconsin.

    1. Just what we need: yet another quasi-hipster / beer snob douchebag drool fest. Here’s my recommendation: TriPaleFishHead Stone Arrogant Tire, with super-extra hops so you know it’s “high quality”.

      1. H&R libertarians are oddly snobbish–dare I say elitist?–when it comes to beer.

        1. Not even elitist. Pretentious is good. Name-dropping, shameless status seekers would be better.

          1. All of the above.

            1. And with that, I think I’ll pop open a PBR, just to make them crazy.

              1. Pah. I sneer at your PBR. Mickey’s Big Mouths are the way to go.

                1. Ha! I was at the store the other day, and I swear that was an actual choice I had to make – PBR vs. Mickey’s. I went with Mickey’s.

                  And no, I don’t drink beer “ironically” – I’m a cheapskate who doesn’t give a shit, because I drink to catch a buzz.

              2. I like beer snob beer fine. But I am actually drinking a Bud Light at this very moment. And it is everything want it to be right now: cold,wet, and very mildly buzz inducing.

                1. I don’t see why drinking piss-water is ok as long as you get buzzed. At least go for some Sam Adams.

                  1. Thank you for validating my opinion, heller.

    2. New Glarus Brewing Company.

      Wiki has a list of Wisconsin breweries, oddly enough.

      1. Vindication from teh Halloween thread…nice!

        1. All right, that’s two votes for New Glarus. I’ll try some. I’m going to have to buy some and bring it back, since I’m literally only there overnight.

          Ayn_Randian, I just like beer. About the only beer I’ll turn down is light beer. I figure since I’m going someplace I’ve never been, might as well see what they have up there I can’t get in Texas. It’s like going to a local restaurant instead of a McDonald’s when you’re visiting. I can get the usual suspects from SABMolsInGeo anywhere.

          1. Tee hee light beer…We do a lot of brewing in our neighborhood, and there is a (misguided) demand for an American style lager. We compromise and brew a wimpy light colored ale we call Piss In a Glass. Ick.

            1. For the record, I personally abhor all forms of alcohol, but I’ll walk through hell soaked in gasoline for your right to get drunk, pick up a fat ugly chick, pee the bed, puke in the toilet (sorta kinda), and generally amuse the hell out of me while you’re doing it! Even when I don’t have a good homegrown buzz going, you guys are still hilarious.

    3. I’d say “Stroh’s” to be ironic, but I think that may be a hipster douche beer now, and owned by some WI brewer or other. Dunno.

      It used to just be good ole Detroit River water, brewed right here…don’t even see it in MI anymore….:(

      Maybe Hamms, “from the land of sky-blue water”. Do they still make Hamms? Falstaff? Black Death Label?

      1. Oh yes, they still make Hamm’s, although it’s not been brewed in St. Paul for years. A lot of the old “zombie beers”–Stroh’s, Hamm’s, Stag, Piels, and the like, are owned by Pabst by now but brewed under contract by Miller.

    4. Milwaukee’s Best.

      Name says it all. Seriously, Packer Backers will drink paint thinner and you think they care about quality?

      Besides if you are in Dairyland, start learning to love brandy. They super dig it there.

    5. Is Leinenkugels micro? They have a pretty good selection from what I remember of my MidWest days.

      1. Wow, nevermind. Just checked wikipedia and they stripped most of the interesting brews out of the lineup.

      2. Leinenkoolaid? No thanks.

    6. If youre still reading this, Sprecher Brewery has some good beers.

  12. Criminy, that is one insane hodgepodge of alcohol laws. Anything jurisdiction smaller than county/parish (I didn’t forget you, Louisianans)has no business making liquor laws.

    It just makes honest people criminals.

    1. And repealing prohibition makes ‘criminals’ into ‘honest, respectable people’; just ask the Bronfmanns, Labatts and Kennedys.*

      *Well, in the case of the Kennedys, that’s a “sort-of” honest, respectable people.

    2. It’s a large city and county, Dallas. Those Justice of the Peace districts have more people than a lot of counties.

  13. I assume the thick black line represents a city or county border.

    It resembles a shape from the Mandelbrot Set.

    1. No, that’s the actual black people. They bunch them into one thin, snaking precinct that is only about 50 feet thick. There are various skyways and tunnels for the white people to travel with ease and comfort through the thin strip of negrosity that they’ve literally marginalized.

      1. Wow, Texas really keeps their blacks in line.

        1. ok, that sounds terrible

    2. Those are the borders of the City of Dallas. Note the white hole in the middle made up of the small cities of Highland and University Park, where I went to high school.

      Dallas County is a rectangle.

      1. Dallas County is a rec

        Agreed. (Needs spellcheck.)

  14. I remember the “Unicard” when I moved to the north-of-Dallas ‘burbs in the late 90’s. Your little paper ticket showing you were part of the club that paid a couple bucks for the little paper ticket. It made me feel so special and exclusive. That fell by the wayside within a few years. The main hassle up here now is that liquor is only available in a few pocketshere and there. So on most Novembers, as the holiday party hosting time approaches, I need to make a pilgramage to either The Colony, or the little chunks of Richardson or Dallas where the liquor stores huddle together to get neccessary supplies.

    1. Yeah, I always hated the russian roulette aspect of stopping someplace for dinner when I was working in the oilfield up there. Is this one gonna serve beer? Or not? Or do I have to be a club member?

      The Louisiana and Nevada approaches are still best, in my mind.

    2. You couldn’t buy liquor in Richardson until 1996, when it annexed the tiny municipality of Buckingham, TX (pop 102, 159 acres). Buckingham’s whole raison d’etre seems to have been to provide real estate for liquor stores. I still don’t know what its boundaries are, but the liquor stores are easy enough to find since Richardson allowed it remain “wet” after annexation.

  15. Chicago has this dry and wet precinct silliness, too. And like everything else, I’m sure if you looked hard enough into you’d find the biggest supporters of dry precincts are liquor license holders in the neighboring precinct.

    1. Minnesota has the same dry/wet county and local option nonsense, plus a state law banning the sale of any beverage stronger than 3.2% alcohol for off-premises consumption on Sundays (surprise…the biggest backers of this law are the convenience store association), plus various municipalities which monopolize liquor sales (which just causes cheaper liquor stores to cluster along their borders).

      Come to think of it, the election ward where I live voted itself dry in 1980. Just means I have to walk five blocks to get a drink…

  16. That’s great news and well deserved! 🙂 Keep up the great work and I’m looking forward to the new and improved

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.