Bizarre Alcohol Laws From Around the World

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Hard to Swallow

The regulation of alcohol has a long and checkered past in many countries around the world, and a number of outdated liquor laws remain on the books. From drinking permits in India to drunk bicycling in Germany, we scoured the planet (via the internet) for some of the most unique, entertaining, and downright bizarre liquor laws (including some that are of dubious origins). Grab a drink and read on.

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Bicycling with Beer

Germany: Bicycling While Drunk

Apparently, drunken cycling is a big problem in Germany. To combat the scourge of two-wheeled intoxication, the country has — according to European news site The Local — passed a law that allows German authorities to seize the driver’s license of those caught cycling under the influence and allows authorities to order a medical and psychological evaluation known as an MPA.

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Happy Hour
cocktail at the bar
Nutthaseth Vanchaichana/istockphoto
British Pub

The U.K.: Illegal to Be Drunk in a Pub

The U.K.’s Licensing Act 1872 is a treasure trove of bizarre and outdated liquor laws, including a real law that threatens anyone found drunk in any public place — including pubs — with a fine. According to the law, “Every person found drunk in any highway or other public place, whether a building or not, or on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty.” (Alaska reportedly has a similar law.)

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Horseback riding
Marco VDM/istockphoto

Colorado: Drunken Horseback Riding

In 2013, a Colorado man was arrested in Boulder while riding a horse drunk. According to a University of Colorado police spokesman cited in a Reuters report, “It’s probably the first time in department history that we have pulled someone over for driving under the influence while on a horse.” According to a local DUI attorney, the infraction is not a DUI but “a charge of animal rider on highway under the influence of alcohol/controlled substance.”

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France: Driver Breathalyzer Kits

From 2013 until it was abolished in late 2019, France had in place a controversial law that required all motorists to keep at least one of their own breathalyzer kits in their car at all times. The law was confusing to motorists: A planned fine was scrapped shortly after it was implemented, while the law was kept in place, meaning all police could do was warn people the law existed.

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North Carolina: Booze and Bingo

North Carolina must have a serious problem with rowdy bingo games, because the state maintains a head-scratching law outlawing the sale or consumption of “any alcoholic beverage in any room while a raffle or bingo game is being conducted in that room.”

Closed Business

Latin America: Alcohol Sales on Election Day

While South Carolina became the last U.S. state to repeal its law banning the sale of alcohol on election days in 2014, similar laws known as leyes secas (or dry laws) remain in effect throughout much of Latin America and other countries around the world, including Turkey. In Ecuador, 857 people were detained for violating that country’s election alcohol ban in 2002, according to the BBC.

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British Farmer

The U.K.: Tending to Livestock Drunk

Another odd relic of the U.K.’s Licensing Act 1872 mandates that every person “who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine” shall be liable to a fine not exceeding 40 shillings or a prison term not exceeding one month.

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Grapefruit and thyme cocktail

Sydney: Shots After Midnight

As part of a number of “lockout laws” implemented in the Central Business District of Australia’s largest city in 2014, the buying or consumption of shots of alcohol after midnight was deemed illegal in an effort to combat “alcohol-fueled violence.” The much-maligned laws were repealed in early 2020.

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Sweden: Only the Government Can Sell Certain Alcohols

Swedes have mixed options about its nation’s Systembolaget chain of state-owned retail stores, which are the only locations where shoppers can legally buy alcohol with an ABV above 3.5% for home consumption. According to the government monopoly, there are 448 stores in the country with Swedes making over 129 million total visits in 2020.

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English football supporters going to a match in London

England: Drinking ‘Within View of the Pitch’

In an effort to combat hooliganism at soccer games, England and Wales have for the last 35 years banned alcohol “within sight of the pitch” — effectively meaning that you can drink in the concourse but not in your seat. The law may be changing as coronavirus is causing crowded conditions in concourses among thirsty fans, though. Certain individual soccer stadiums around the world, including Camp Nou in Barcelona (Europe’s largest stadium), have total bans on alcohol sales.

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Dog Drinking

Chicago: Giving a Dog Whiskey

According to Chicago Elevated and other sites, it is supposedly illegal to give a dog whiskey in Chicago. While we could not find confirmation of the existence of such an ordinance, the oft-cited law reportedly makes no mention of other types of alcohol, leading one local law firm to joke that “Chicago dogs may apparently enjoy beer, rum, and other alcoholic beverages, but whiskey is off-limits.” (In all seriousness, as they add, never give your dog alcohol; it can be very harmful to them.)

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Ohio: Getting a Fish Drunk

Another oft-cited U.S. state law of dubious legitimacy is a supposed one cited by local Cleveland news and other sites claiming it is illegal to get a fish drunk. A thorough investigation by Thrillist discovered no evidence of such a law, although it finds that a law outlawing the pollution of waterways with “dynamite or other deleterious substances with the intent thereby to injure fish” in Oklahoma seems to be the most likely origin of the Ohio fish law tale.

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Friends toasting with beer

Lefors, Texas: Sipping Beer While Standing

It is supposedly illegal to take more than three sips of a beer while standing in the town of Lefors, Texas (population 488), according to the San-Antonio Express-News. “The background of this law is obscure, but likely has something to do with standing while intoxicated,” a Houston attorney says. 

San Salvador

El Salvador: Punishment for Drunken Driving

A widely cited law claims that drunken driving was once punishable by death by firing squad in El Salvador, but the law has also been debunked based on conflicting evidence. Regardless, El Salvador largely outlawed the death penalty in 1983 so the law, even if true and still on the books, would no longer be enforced.

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Crushed Can

Australia: Crushing a Beer Can Between Breasts

An Australian bartender made international headlines in 2007 when she was fined $1,000 for reportedly crushing a beer can between her exposed breasts at a hotel bar south of Perth. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the bartender was found to be in violation of the Liquor Control Act in the state of Western Australia.


La Paz, Bolivia: Married Women at Bars and Restaurants

The Daily Meal and other sites including Second Bottle claim that a law in La Paz, Bolivia — sometimes reported as applying to the country overall — prohibits married women from drinking more than one glass of wine in bars and restaurants in an effort to discourage extramarital affairs. If true, the sexist law has no equal when it comes to married men.


Scotland: Wearing Underwear Beneath a Kilt

Though not an actual law, an oft-cited traditional Scots law (from a hybrid common law/civil law system) supposedly says that a Scotsman can be fined two cans of beer if he's caught wearing underwear beneath his kilt. According to some, a “True Scotsman” would never wear underwear beneath their kilts, a tradition that is thought to have its roots in Scottish military traditions. As Celtic Life International notes, enforcement of such a provision would in reality prove questionable at best.