Publisher's Note ó By Jody Reese
The silly liquor law

by Jody Reese

A few years ago local bars and restaurants ran into trouble when Hippo wrote about discounts on beer, wine and booze. The New Hampshire Liquor Commission actually cited the businesses on the list, even though those businesses had nothing to do with the list other than being on it (those citations were later retracted, after Hippo complained).

Why would these bars and restaurants get cited for something so silly and so minor as telling folks they had a special on drafts?

If you can believe it, it is against Liquor Commission rules to advertise, post in a place seen by the public or tell anyone over the phone that you, as a bar or restaurant, offer an alcoholic beverage at a reduced price. A bar can eventually lose its liquor license for that offense.

It is not, however, against Liquor Commission rules for a grocery store to advertise or tell people that itís selling beer at a discount, nor is it against the rules for the state wine and liquor stores to advertise sales on hard alcohol. Bars and restaurants are the only type of business that sell alcohol that are held to this weird rule (it is also against the law to be intoxicated in a bar, but not on the street).

Liquor Commission agents, who are stretched thin as it is, privately say they would rather spend time discouraging underage drinking than trying to keep track of bar and restaurant advertising, websites, flyering, postings and phone calls.

There are no great defenders of this current rule, but some fear that allowing bars and restaurants to advertise drink specials will cause people to drink more. If that were the case, then why does the state allow grocery stories and the state wine and liquor stores to advertise cheap beer, wine and booze? Even at the cheapest of cheap prices, bars and restaurants still charge a lot more for a drink than buying it retail.

This silly rule baring bars and restaurants from telling folks they have a drink special needs to killed, so the Liquor Commission can spend more of its limited time making sure minors canít get their hands on alcohol.

Law and rules that fly in the face of common sense, as this one does, tend to undermine all laws and rules. Folks start to pick and choose which laws to obey. Itís a recipe for bad government.

The real question is whether anyone in our Legislature is brave enough to introduce a law to squash it.

óJody Reese

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH