Friday A/V Club: Legalizing Liquor-By-the-Drink

A drive to preserve a Prohibitionist relic


On Election Day, as my colleague Jacob Sullum noted earlier this week, voters considered, and in some cases passed, measures to strike down some of the legal relics restricting the alcohol trade. In honor of those battles, here's a vintage ad from a similar moment.

It dates from the 1970s, when one of the hot issues in North Carolina politics was whether commercial establishments should be allowed to sell "liquor by the drink." This had been banned across the state in the Progressive Era; in 1973, a referendum proposed to end the statewide rule and let counties decide the issue for themselves. Opposition to this idea was led by the Christian Action League, but because they knew they needed more than just the evangelical vote they created a new group called People Who Care About North Carolina that focused on secular arguments.

In this case, the commercial highlights the idea that allowing restaurants to serve mixed drinks will lead to more drunk driving. But another argument creeps in at the :19 mark, when a woman explains that that she's lived in Atlanta—that sinful urban wasteland—"and I don't want a bar on every street corner in our town."

The anti-liquor forces won that round, but it was a temporary victory. In 1978 the legislature passed a law devolving the decision to the counties, and voters in several sections of the state promptly marched to the polls to legalize it. That left Oklahoma as the last segment of the union with a statewide ban; it in turn folded in 1984.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)


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    1. I think the 90s may have been worse in some ways.

      1. Like current hipster fashion is going to look good 20-30 years on.

        1. By years you mean femtoseconds?

    2. I lived in North Carolina in the 1970s. That outfit/accent combination gives me a nice nostalgic glow.

      1. I grew up in Chapel Hill in the ’70’s. That lady with the yellow blouse is pretty much every lady in NC.

        1. It appears that I want to have sex with every lady in NC in the 1970s.

          Y’all really shoulda put up a border fence to keep the ugly-ass yankees out of your state. Too late now.

  2. I just wish they’d bring back the South Carolina mini-bottle law.

    So I could have another reason to never go there ever again.

    1. Clemson and Spartanburg and a few other Upstate places voted to allow Sunday sales on Tuesday.

      Everyone in Tennessee voted to allow wine in grocery stories.

      Minneapolis got rid of their silly law about alcohol in restaurants (and not serving beer until you ordered).

      It was a good day for repealing sin laws, except for the soda tax in Berkeley.

      1. I would’ve voted for the soda tax. Tax revenue has to come from somewhere. This sure beats the “White penis tax” that I’m certain will be on Berkeley’s ballot before the end of the decade.

    2. When I lived in SC, a frat-boy friend of mine voted to keep the minibottles. Why? He thought bar-tenders would use their discretion to give him weak drinks.

      1. One of the reasons I heard they changed the law back was because the church crowd found out the mini-bottles actually benefited drinkers.

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  4. What a great commercial. Attractive people making a simple, concise, clear argument.

    Their argument wasn’t even wrong.

    But there’s an answer: airbags, anti-lock breaks, better designed roads, crumple zones, and about a million other auto safety features that I don’t know about…

    1. Their argument wasn’t even wrong.

      I’m not sure that’s true. Beer and wine could still be sold by the glass. And starting in the ’60s, it was legal (in some places) to bring your own liquor to a restaurant, order a soda, and mix a drink yourself. So drivers still had plenty of opportunities to get drunk.

      1. I was not aware of that.

        To be sure, ‘Bring-your-own-handle-of-Jack’ is a horrifying policy.

  5. It’s kind of embarrassing that my state was the last to abolish this stupid law. But at least it meant I was able to vote to change it in my very first election. Most elections here don’t have anything so worthy of voting for.
    This time around, we didn’t have ANYTHING worth voting for.
    (I signed a petition for medical pot earlier this year, but unfortunately, it didn’t make it onto the ballot.)

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