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davorg (18)

Yahoo! ID: daveorguk (Add User, Send Message)

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Wednesday February 05, 2003
04:29 AM

Drinking in the USA

[ #10406 ]

I'd appreciate some advice on the drinking laws in the USA.

This summer we're planning to be in various parts of the USA. Certainly New York and Los Angeles and perhaps Las Vegas and/or Portland. We'll be bringing my stepdaughter with us. She is 16.

In the UK she's allowed into pubs at the landlord's discretion as long as she only drinks soft drinks. In restaurants she is (I think) allowed to drink wine with a meal (well, no-one ever seems to object). In many European countries we find similar (or even more lax) laws.

Now, I'm well aware that in most US states the legal drinking age is 21 so I'm not planning on trying to buy her drinks in bars or restaurants, but I'd like to know how much it will impact our trip just having her with us. Will bars allow her in if she sits with us and drinks soft drinks? Does it vary from bar to bar? Or state to state? Will we need to carefully plan which bars to visit?

Any advice appreciated.

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  • well... (Score:3, Informative)

    by hfb (74) on 2003.02.05 6:34 (#16727) Homepage Journal

    In bars and pubs [ read not restaurants with bars attached ] 95%+ percent of the time you will not be able to get in with a 16 year old, period. This doesn't generally vary from state to state unless it is a special event like an 'all ages' concert at a pub or out in podunk USA where the bartender married the sister of the sheriff. In restaurants with bars, you can sit at the bar until the restaurant closes and then they'll kick out the underage. A lot of places in the US also won't accept a passport for proof of age, only a drivers license, etc. Supposedly this reduces the liabilty from fraud as if the liquor police show up and bust the bar, everyone has a very, very sad night with fines for everyone from the owner down to the glass washer if they find an underage kid in the pub, drinking or not.

    I used to bartend and no matter how much I wanted to serve a 19 or 20 year old kid I just wouldn't as the fines are too steep to take the risk. I imagine you'll have a very hard time going to pubs with the 16 year old so maybe look into late restaurants and package liquor.

    • 95%+ percent of the time you will not be able to get in with a 16 year old

      I was afraid that would be the case.

      Obviously as visitors to the country we'll be happy to abide by their laws and we really don't want to get anyone fined. It's just a real shame that the US laws seem so out of step with most of the rest of the world.

      • It's just a real shame that the US laws seem so out of step with most of the rest of the world.
  • I agree in general with Elaine, but to answer your question fully, it varies from state to state. Rarely, it varies by county.

    In Indiana, for example, under-21 is not allowed to enter a bar at all, although they can go into a restaurant that serves alcohol. In California, they can enter any establishment, but are not allowed to drink. Utah has a very strange set of laws that I can't even begin to explain.

    These are to the best of my knowledge, IANAL, etc., etc.

    • and sometimes by town...:) Massachusetts has at least 3 dry towns that I'm aware of though there are probably a lot more.

      I blame the damn pilgrims :)

  • Most "bars" (those w/little or no food service) that I'm aware of have signs on the door that say "Over-21 only". Most "pubs" (and restaurants w/bars) that I know of just don't allow minors to sit at the bar. (BTW, since "pub" is not really an american concept, its usually prefixed by "English" or "Irish" (mostly Irish) here).

    If there's no sign on the door saying otherwise, you ought to be safe bringing her in (unless its in a bad part of town, etc. :-)

  • Being a former bar owner in Oregon, I'm far too familiar with Oregon's laws, and since you mention Portland (you must stop by when you get here), let me elaborate.

    There are two classes of places that serve alcohol for on-premises consumption in Oregon. Let's call them "restaurants" and "bars", although the OLCC actually calls them all "restaurants" to distinguish them from "stores", since they are all required to serve food even if they are a "bar" in the traditional sense.

    A "bar" is some place where k

    • Randal L. Schwartz
    • Stonehenge
  • I never had trouble going to bars when I was 16. Of course, I looked quite a bit older than 16, and I never ordered drinks, so those factors surely had something to do with it.
    • Kind of the same here. Having a beard helps, but is probably not an option. :-) I have no idea what the actual rules are in NY, as no one usually pays them a whole lot of attention. But every once in a while they do. I'll try to check, though.