Celebrate Wisconsinbly: A guide to the state’s weird alcohol laws

Credit: Wisconsin Examiner

By Christina Lorey

February 27, 2024

Did you know that the average Wisconsinite enjoys 634 drinks per year? That’s nearly 150, or an entire keg, more drinks than the national average. Beer has become an integral, unavoidable part of state culture and the economy, as Wisconsin cities frequently fill list after list of “the drunkest cities in America.”

Like it or not, drinking has become a big part of Badger State culture. And for that reason, we have a handful of hyper-specific, rather unusual alcohol laws on the books. Let’s take a look:

Law #1: Gas stations and grocery stores can sell alcohol.

This is par for the course in Wisconsin, but that’s not the case in every state. Maryland, Rhode Island, and Alaska prohibit the sale of alcohol in all grocery stores, while 18 states only allow the sale of beer and wine. Seven other states only allow beer to be sold at grocery stores and gas stations.

Law #2: Happy Hour deals are allowed.

The ability to offer post-work drink specials is actually written into state law. You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” It’s significant when you consider that However, eight states (Alaska, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont) don’t allow happy hour specials.

Law #3: State law allows for the sale of alcohol from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.

This is specifically for alcohol sold for takeaway consumption (i.e. at grocery stores and gas stations). Drinks sold at places with tamper-evident seals or by the glass (i.e. restaurants and bars)–are available for purchase until 2 a.m. These laws put Wisconsin in the middle of the road when it comes to time rigidity: While Florida’s Miami-Dade County allows alcohol sales 24 hours/day, other states (Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and Utah) don’t allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays.

Law #4: Underage people are legally allowed to drink in a bar with their parents.

As long as legal guardians are present, an underage person can buy and drink alcohol in Wisconsin. However, businesses can deny service to minors at their own discretion. 

MORE: 6 Strange Wisconsin Laws That Are Still on the Books


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.


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