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.)