6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed

We've ended up with some bizarre laws that will kill a Spring Break party faster than a tropical storm.
6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed

Everyone loves to have a good time, until they grow old and start crusading against youngsters having fun anywhere near their lawn. Unfortunately, "old" is about the average age of grumpy politicians, which is why we end up with bizarre laws that will kill a spring break party faster than a tropical storm.

Bartenders In Utah Must Mix Drinks Behind A "Zion Curtain"

Because of the alcohol-snubbing Mormon church, Utah has a fairly adversarial relationship with booze. We say adversarial because the state hates the sale of alcohol, yet has a monopoly on the wholesaling/retailing of many kinds of alcohol. Their control of the supply also allows them to control how people are allowed to drink, which is why you can't get alcohol anywhere after 1 a.m. And while you can get alcohol served to you in restaurants, you are not allowed to mix drinks in an area where you can be seen by anyone, which has led to the creation of the hilariously named "Zion Curtain."

6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed
Djamila Grossman/The New York Times

"I don't get it ... where's the hole that-"
"It's not that."

Essentially, any restaurant that serves alcohol has to make the drinks in a "separate space" from where the patrons are seated, because innocent Utah souls should be protected from witnessing the devilish rituals that make vodka bearable to drink. Thus, many places have a sort of separate area in the bar, surrounded by curtains or frosted glass or well-trained guard elephants, where bartenders mix their drinks. We're not sure why the booze needs a privacy screen, but maybe slushing two drinks together is a bit too close to alcoholic premarital sex for Mormon tastes.

Paul Fraughton/The Salt Lake Tribune

It's basically a glory hole for booze.

After what we assume was lots of campaigning and laughter from the citizens of Utah, the state finally passed a law this March to "remove" the Zion Curtain requirement, though what it really did was make the curtain one of three equally stupid options. Restaurants can now get rid of the curtain by building a 42-inch-high wall or railing to physically separate the "eating" and "drinking" parts of the restaurant. They can also remodel the whole damn restaurant to create a ten-foot buffer zone only for alcohol, with no dining or children allowed. So if you want to get rid of the drink-mixing area your restaurant already has, all you need to do is burn the place down and rebuild it from the ashes. Who says government doesn't work for the people?

You Can Drink In Bars In Alaska, But You Can't Be Drunk

We've all heard of laws that keep you from being drunk in public, or laws that stop bars from over-serving customers who have had enough, even though the customer will tell the bartender when they've had enough, goddamn it. But in Alaska, if you actually get drunk in an establishment specifically designed to get people drunk, you could be arrested.

7 A2OOSG 5 6 2 3 4 1 T K G H E F

"Warning: Your jukebox choices can and will be used as probable cause."

The law in question "prohibits a drunken person from entering or remaining in a bar, restaurant, or other place" that serves alcohol. The penalty can be as severe as up to a year of jail time and a $500 fine, and the bar that did a poor job of watering down your drinks could have its liquor license revoked. Police officers will even enter a bar undercover, looking for customers who spend five minutes hitting on the ladies' room icon. If they see anyone in a ridiculously drunk state, they'll call in uniformed officers to make the arrest, causing all the other patrons to sit up straight and start talking about politics in their best sober voices.

6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed

"I swear, occifer, there's no blood in my alcohol."

This creates a fairly uncomfortable situation in Alaska, which still has a huge alcoholism problem. It's been one of the drinkingest states in the country for many years, which leads to higher rates of crime, sexual violence, suicide, and an alcohol mortality rate three times the national average. And since they can't be drunk in bars, that means they get drunk at home, or on the streets, which in the frozen wasteland of Alaska will turn a bunch of alcoholics into 90-proof human popsicles.

Curfew Laws Ruin Both Summer And Prom (And Are Racist)

When we were younger, a 10 o'clock curfew meant that we would come home at midnight and risk getting yelled at by our moms in curlers. These days, however, staying out past sundown as a teenager can lead to you being arrested for the terrible crime of thinking you live in the land of the free.

6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed

"It's not like you pay tax- oh, right. Well, if you don't like it, vote for- oh, right."

Curfew laws have been popping up in various cities around the country, and depending on your age and the time of year, they can be as restrictive as 8 p.m., which isn't even late enough to go watch a Pixar movie. If you're not with your parents, out on an errand, or have just scored the game-winning touchdown to cure your sister's leukemia, the police can come and pick you right up -- sometimes as many as 50 kids in a single night. Which seems excessive, but hey, you can't make an omelet without turning into a dictatorship.

"But wait a minute! What about prom?" you ask, because you remember the title. Cities generally make exceptions for school-related functions like prom or sports games, but they make that exception as small as possible. While many cities allow kids to travel to and from their school prom, they can't travel to any sort of party afterward. And really, what's the point of having a prom if you don't get the opportunity to awkwardly lose your virginity in someone's younger sister's bedroom?

6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed

"Before we start, can we turn Rainbow Dash around?"

So you have a law on the books that gives cops an eight-hour window each day to arrest teenagers on a whim. We shouldn't have to tell you, then, that such laws are being enforced in some seriously racist ways. In supposedly progressive Minneapolis, the ACLU found that 56 percent of curfew charges were against black children, even though most of the city is white. It's no better in San Diego, where Hispanics make up 28.8 percent of the population, but Hispanic teens get hit with 59 percent of all curfew arrests. On top of all that, it's not even clear whether or not curfew laws reduce crime -- but they do reduce the number of soon-to-be-voting-age teens who like their cops or local lawmakers. So at least we know that change is on its way.

Some States Have Eliminated Bars Entirely

As moonshine enthusiasts will gleefully tell you, it's really hard to ban alcohol in the United States, but goddamn if we don't keep trying. But our nation's buzzkills have given up trying to punish people who make booze, and have instead turned their ire toward the people who pour it.


"Go get a respectable job, like working at a dispensary!"

In North Carolina, you will not find a single bar; they simply don't exist in that state. People, however, can be heroically determined to get drunk (by any means possible), so now North Carolina has plenty of "private clubs" -- nudge nudge, wink wink.

NC law states that any public establishment where alcohol is served must have at least 30 percent of its receipts come from food sales; any less than that, and it has to be a private establishment with a membership list and gaudy neon sign and everything. As a result, there are a lot of places where you have to show your membership card along with your ID if you want a drink -- or you can fill out a form and buy a membership on the spot if you're that desperate for a marked-up Bud Light.

6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed

"You can slip your dues into my thong."

Meanwhile in Virginia, bars don't have the option of turning into private clubs; they either have to have at least 45 percent of their receipts come from food, or they don't get to serve alcohol. This has resulted in restaurants not-so-subtly "encouraging" patrons to order a bit more food with their gin and tonic. It's the only place in America where you can easily spot an alcoholic based on their waist size. And in case restaurateurs are having trouble convincing frat boys to order a dozen souffles to go with their shots, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will happily send out a "special agent" to show you how to extract the most money from your patrons. We're assuming that lots of customers end up with dessert and a fresh set of bruises.

In Massachusetts, You May Need A Special Liquor ID To Drink

Buying alcohol with a fake ID is one of those teenage rites of passage, like learning how to drive or ruining a pair of jeans from excessive dry-humping. But how do you stop teens from getting booze by flashing a small piece of paper? By adding a second piece of paper, obviously.

6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed

"Well, Mrs. Chang, everything seems in order. Drive safe."

To counter these low-stakes forgeries, Massachusetts has started penalizing stores that accept fake out-of-state licenses, because they are apparently easier to fake. This in turn has caused some towns to stop allowing out-of-state licenses altogether rather than face the consequences of fines. So if you're from Connecticut and looking to have a good time, you'll have to settle for being the designated driver and drinking alone in your apartment. You can still head into a bar if you bring your passport, which is a good way to wind up in Morocco with a hangover and a cocktail napkin that only reads "Start fez business."

Fortunately, the state heard the concerns of the people (and saw all the tourism dollars vanishing from their pockets), and they came up with a completely sensible and not-at-all-ridiculous solution: You can now buy an ID specifically for drinking. So if you're from outside of Massachusetts and you want to be drunk in Massachusetts (which is the number-two tourist reason to visit Massachusetts, right after getting punched by a Red Sox fan), you can head to the nearest RMV (their off-brand DMV) and pay $25 for a five-year reverse liquor license, allowing you to import liquor into your stomach.


A framed picture of Tom Brady is also acceptable.

Oddly enough, forcing people to stand in line at the DMV to get wasted hasn't solved the loss of revenue for stores. Lots of sellers are now lobbying for a change in state laws so they don't get more harshly penalized for fake out-of-state IDs. Hopefully, the law could change in the near future, turning everyone's liquor IDs into just some laminated proof of their alcoholism.

Clubs In New York City Need A Hard-To-Get, Historically Racist Dancing License

It's been over 30 years since Kevin Bacon taught us the magic of dance, and yet some parts of the country still turn their noses up at that Satanic hip-shaking. But while you might expect this sort of puritanical behavior from small towns like Cricket's Eyeball, Oregon, amazingly, the one place in America that's closest to Footloose also happens the to be the place where they shot Fame.

In New York City, only about 1 percent of clubs and bars have a cabaret license, which they need to allow more than two people to dance at the same time. Those that don't have one technically have to force dancers to wait in a line of the strict non-conga variety.


"That guy is tapping his toe! Alpha team, go go go!"

But getting a license to boogie is a lot harder than it should be. If you want to get a cabaret license in New York City, you need to:

-- Get approval from the fire department

-- Pass an electrical inspection

-- Solve the Riddler's Maze that will lead you to the proper business certificate you need

-- Install security cameras and signs stating that there are security cameras

-- Agree to background check your employees

-- Get your child support payments up-to-date (we swear we didn't make this one up)

-- Pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for a license

6 Baffling Nightlife Laws You Had No Idea Existed
Getty Images

And also no magicians. Ever.

And that still leaves out a mountain of other forms and approvals you need before you can legally drop the bass in your establishment. You can still have bands play at your bar or club without a cabaret license, but you'll need to carefully select your acts to ensure that they are boring and don't get the crowd excited, or else you could have the police knocking on your door. This means that people like Andrew Muchmore, the proprietor of Muchmore's (their slogan: "We're Muchmore than a punny name"), has to screen the acts that play at his club, turning away anyone who might deposit ants into his customers' pants.

The cabaret law is irregularly enforced, which you should take to mean "It's mostly enforced on minorities." But it's never pretended to be anything other than racist. Back in the day, a few handy clauses were added after Prohibition to crack down on jazz bars. Under the original law, no musicians performing at a cabaret could play wind, brass, or percussion instruments, and anyone who played had to carry a cabaret card, which they needed to renew every two years. This allowed the authorities to ban famous musicians like Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and Thelonious Monk from playing in the city. Such restrictive wording is no longer in place today, of course, just in time for all club musicians to be replaced by a single dubstep machine.

Julien's Live

If only Bo Diddley had played the Theremin.

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