6 Loopholes People Used to Break the Law and Get Drunk

Technically, if you’re on a train, everything is legal
6 Loopholes People Used to Break the Law and Get Drunk

Many years ago, at a factory in an undisclosed location, a man popped open a beer while still on the job. “What are you doing?” asked the foreman. “You’re on the clock till five!” “It’s five o’clock somewhere,” said the man, and he chugged the beer down.

That man, of course, was fired, and his wife left him shortly afterward, but his legacy lives on. When the rules say we cannot drink, we must find a way to drink. For example, you can...

Pay to See the Blind Pig

During Prohibition, a bar could not legally operate and sell alcohol. No one could legally sell alcohol (without receiving special exemptions, such as for medicinal use), or manufacture alcohol, or transport alcohol. The law didn’t ban drinking alcohol, however, or handing the stuff to someone else without charging them any money. 

Naturally, serving beverages for free wouldn’t be a very good business model for anyone. But suppose an establishment were to hand out a drink for free and charge customers for something else? Say, they charge a customer for some entertainment — for instance, the chance to look at a marvelous animal. As for the drink the barman serves the customer, well, no one’s purchasing that. The drink is complimentary, a free bonus you get for paying to see the establishment’s star attraction — which is a blind pig. 

The Speakeasy 1919

Paramount Pictures

This refers to an actual animal, not to a patron blind from moonshine.

This idea is why one alternate name for a speakeasy is a “blind pig.” And if you’re wondering why the police would ever be fooled by this, know that plenty of police didn’t really care about Prohibition laws and were possibly drinking right along with everyone else. 

Instructions on How to Absolutely Not Make Wine

Like we said, manufacturing alcohol was illegal under Prohibition. Individual families were still allowed to make a limited amount of wine, but if you were to sell people the raw materials for making wine, along with instructions, you might find yourself in trouble. One Prohibition product called Vine-Glo made sure never to do this. Their product was grape concentrate, shipped out as a cube, and this was what the label said: “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn to wine.”

You might say the product was not terribly coy about the intended purpose. Along with having “vine” right in the name, advertising included glasses of what looked like wine, and the varieties of grape cube you could buy were named after wines. 

Advertisement for Vine-Glo in the Chicago Tribune from 1930.

Fruit Industries

“Legal in your home” is always a winning selling point

In 1931, regulators successfully cracked down on Vine-Glo, and the company (California Fruit Industries) had to stop making the stuff, but they got away with it for a good couple years. And the government only really got mad at them and changed their tune when the company went beyond and embarrassed them. This happened when they offered to hire the assistant attorney general who’d initially declared the product legal. She accepted the offer and quit the government. 

Stick Everyone on a Train

Even when alcohol is legal in the country, you need a license to sell it. One British gin maker, Tapling & Meegan Distilling, dutifully applied for this license, but it was taking too long to get approved. So they did the only reasonable thing and turned to steampunk.

They rented an old steam locomotive and invited people aboard, then they took off, serving gin along the way. Within all the country’s many alcohol regulations is a line of law saying the usual license requirements do not apply to trains in motion

Taplin & Mageean Gin Train Experience

Taplin & Mageean

Here’s a pic, not from the original daring journey, but from one of the licensed anniversary gin rides they now host.

Does that loophole mean train drivers are allowed to drink freely while on the job? Surely not, but we’d like to imagine it does. How hard can it be, driving a train drunk? That thing’s on rails. 

Let’s Call Beer Something Else

Complex regulations define exactly what beverages are, which is why you generally cannot put lemonade in a bottle and sell it as tomato juice. In Texas, they had a rule about beer: It could not contain more than 4 percent alcohol by volume. This law might have been on the books as far back as the repeal of Prohibition and definitely was on the books starting in 1977. The very fact that no one’s sure quite when it was first written shows just how complicated alcohol regulations are.

Lots of beers are more than 4 percent alcohol. Many people would say that a standard beer is at least 4.5 percent alcohol, and something 4 percent or under can only qualify as light beer. You can even get some varieties that have much more alcohol than that (this particularly strong IPA approaches 20 percent), but in Texas, none of those qualify as beer. So, brewers nationwide learned to label their beverages accordingly. A lager that appears to be beer by most conventional definitions would be labeled, in fine print, “In Texas, malt liquor.” 

Brooklyn Pilsner label

Brooklyn Brewery

Whoa, 5.1 percent? Better call a lawyer to okay this.

We now invite you to approach the nearest Texan and mock them for their weak beers. The Texan will stand up, walk up to you and say, “Actually, we finally got rid of that rule in 2012, so ales like that are welcome to be marketed as beer in Texas now.” 

Turning Nightclubs into Pop-up Restaurants

This next law lasted from 1935 to 2000, in Ireland, a place not entirely unfamiliar with alcohol. Establishments were not allowed to serve alcohol at night unless they also served a meal. That meant restaurants were able to sell drinks, but it was completely impossible for a club to sell drinks and just let people dance for hours. 

So, clubs had to adapt. Every single evening, a few hours in, a club would suddenly cut the music, turn up the lights and pass out food. No one was interested in eating, this killed the vibe and visiting DJs were baffled by the tradition — but they had to do it. 

Home Nightclub - Balbriggan Harbour

William Murphy

If you’re hungry while dancing, you weren’t having much fun.

The dish of choice at these clubs? Curry. This wasn’t because anyone especially craved spicy food at night, but because curry can be just about the cheapest food in the world to prepare for a room of people. Drop one onion and a pinch of spice into a giant cauldron of water, and congratulations, you can now say you made “curry,” and no one can prove this wasn’t a sincere attempt. It might not quite fulfill the spirit of the law, in that no one will leave nourished or will absorb the alcohol at a slower and safer rate, but it will help add volume to the vomit that patrons will deposit in the parking lot.

The Inedible Sandwich

That Irish policy hearkens to an older and famous law from New York. Way back in 1896, the same time that they made the controversial decision to raise the drinking age from 16 to 18, the state passed a law saying bars couldn’t serve alcohol on Sundays. An exception existed for hotels and other places offering substantial meals. 

Bars, which served no actual food, qualified for the exemption by offering a sandwich. Not sandwiches, but a singular sandwich that a bar would pass from customer to customer without anyone eating it. This was named the “Raines sandwich,” after John Raines, the senator who wrote the law. Sometimes, the sandwich wasn’t edible at all but was made of rubber. Sometimes, it might be a brick placed between two slices of bread. 

Free lunch, by Charles Dana Gibson.

Charles Dana Gibson

Bread was hardier back in the 19th century.

News reports tell of one incident from 1901, when a customer who didn’t understand the process tried to eat the Raines sandwich he was handed, leading to a physical altercation between him and the bartender. Someone ran and called the cops, who assessed the situation, separated the two fighters and handed the sandwich back to the bartender

Like we mentioned before, booze lifehacks worked best when the cops stood on the side of alcohol. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?