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June 25, 2011

We’re Number One!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:18 AM *

First in the nation! Probably something to do with all those politicians every four years.

The Drunkest States in America

Gallons sold divided by population. Of course, to be accurate, it should be divided by the populations of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York…

Comments on We're Number One!:
#1 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 08:44 AM:

Ah, yes. New Hampshire. Where there are state-run liquor stores at interstate highway rest areas.

For those who have never been to New England: I am not making this up. Really.

#2 ::: John Kerr ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 08:57 AM:

Pah! New England has nothing on Old Scotland: "Scotland has again topped the world league for cocaine consumption."

#3 ::: Jim ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 09:26 AM:

Discount that Maine percentage -- New Hampshire booze is too far away for most of us, at today's gas prices.

#4 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 10:25 AM:

Louisiana had (and may still have) drive-through places that serve frozen drinks. I remember when it was decided that the punch-out for the straw made it an "open container", so the stores started putting sticky-label dots over the "opening".

Louisiana was also the state that, when threatened with the loss fo federal highway funds, raised the drinking age to 21, still allowed 18 year-olds to buyt (for their parents, of course). This loophole was closed.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 10:55 AM:

I recall seeing, years ago, a map of drunk-driving accidents in Kentucky. They were all higher in dry counties adjacent to wet or moist* counties. It makes me wonder what the drink-driving statistics are for counties and townships in the states adjacent to NH.

*For those not familiar with Suth'n political language, a "moist" county is one that is "dry", i.e., forbids the sale of alcoholic beverages, but contains within its boundaries a municipality that is "wet", i.e., permits the sale of beer,wine, and spirits. I used to live in one such, Rowan County, Kentucky, which contained the wet city of Morehead.

#6 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 11:35 AM:

@3 Not entirely true, we just add "Liquor Store" to the quarterly "Had to go south for something else, might as well pool errands" list.

What's really sad is that our "I have to go to Kittery for something else, might as well nip down to Portsmouth and go shopping" list is worth the extra fuel just for buying a carload of groceries (nonperishable and frozen, for which we bring a cooler.) It makes no sense to me that there's THAT much of a price difference on staples between the local supermarkets here in Augusta and the ones in Portsmouth (about halfway between here and Boston).

And with the exception of liquor, it's not about taxes, because we don't pay sales tax on groceries here either.

#7 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 12:32 PM:

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister

This won't have much to do with drunk driving, since we're talking about beer, wine, and spirits in stores being super cheap. The drinks served in bars and restaurants are ... heavily taxed. Everyone who's drinking in a bar is presumed to be a tourist and thus ready for squeezing. (The low prices in stores are bait to get the tourists into state.)

#8 ::: Jim ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 01:01 PM:

#5 :::Thena:::

Ain't worth the drive from Bangor . . .

#9 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 01:28 PM:

I bet they don't have this in New Hampshire.

Guns and Liquor

#10 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 01:50 PM:

#9 ::: Steve C. :: I bet they don't have this in New Hampshire.

Except the drive-thru part, sure do. Up here we call 'em "General Stores."

#11 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 02:32 PM:

My son currently lives most of the year in the country that has the most beer consumption per capita.

#12 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 03:25 PM:

You've heard about the American girl who appeared in adverts for a big brewery. Then she had the chance to go to the Czech Republic. It didn't go well. She came home a sadder Budweiser girl.

#13 ::: Alan Yee ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 03:28 PM:

#11: The Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita? That's... interesting. I would have thought the United States would be higher on that list. I suppose I had that impression because I hear so much about binge drinking and drunk driving here in the U.S. The U.S. is such a large country though, so the beer consumption might not be as bad when divided out over the entire population. The Czech Republic is a pretty small country, so you wouldn't think the beer consumption would be so high.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 03:30 PM:

Jim Macdonald #7: Thare are,then, no bars in liquor stores, such are found in the Commonwealth of Kentucky? Morehead is also the only place where I've seen drive-up windows in liquor stores.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 03:50 PM:

Alan Yee @13:
I would have thought the United States would be higher on that list.

I have drunk beer in-country* with Poles†, Austrians, Brits, Americans, and Dutch people. I have drunk beer out-country with all of the above plus Irish people, Finns**, Australians, New Zealanders, and Italians.

Trust me when I say that seventeenth looks just about right. Maybe a little higher than I would have predicted, but just about plausible.

* Which is to say, I have, on more than one occasion, gone to local bars/pubs with people from that country‡
‡ Purely for research purposes, I assure you.
† We drank beer only until we were drunk enough to think switching to vodka was a good idea§
§ It wasn't.
** OK, one Finn, but he drinks enough for several.

#16 ::: Marko Kloos ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 04:43 PM:

I'm positive that the cross-border traffic from MA, VT, and ME drives up those stats quite significantly.

There was a thing on the news a year or three back about a MA state legislator loading tax-free booze into the trunk of his car--which bore MA House plates--at the NH liquor store on I-95. That would be the same legislator who voted to impose a 6.25% hooch tax in MA.

Ah, found the link:

#17 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 05:25 PM:

Fragano @ #14, I've seen drive-thru liquor stores in West Los Angeles.

#18 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 05:59 PM:

The US has whole dry counties and significant chunks of the population who are absolute teetotallers. If you took all the people who never ever drink out of every country's reckonings, I imagine the US might rise in the rankings.

But, trust me, never to the level of the Czech Republic. I have seen it with my eyes. They take beer in cups or open bottles right on to the metro. Respectable people do! And nobody cares!

#19 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 06:24 PM:

My father used to claim that the existence of drive-up windows on liquor stores was for the convenience of "preachers, teachers, and Baptists."

#20 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 06:58 PM:


The northern Louisiana town where I finished high school had a well-known drive through liquor store. Rumor had it that if the right clerk was on duty they would sell to anyone "tall enough to see over the counter."

Alas, at the time I was not only underage but also a tee-totaler (and a lapsing Southern Baptist) so I never checked the place out. I'm much better now, on all counts.

And Jim @8 - Driving from Bangor to Portsmouth to go shopping is not any different than driving from New Brunswick to Bangor or Augusta to go shopping, and I see the evidence of that parked around here every holiday weekend. Not something one would do every weekend, but once in awhile, to stock up on something that makes it worth the trip...

#21 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 07:44 PM:

#16:I'm positive that the cross-border traffic from MA, VT, and ME drives up those stats quite significantly.

Back in the dark days before internet commerce (that is, back when the very idea of interstate commerce was apparently unknown to pundits), I saw a note in Harpers or The Atlantic which seized upon the fact that New York City had the largest per capita sales of astronomical telescopes. And from which factoid, the author concluded that Manhattan - with its famously bad astronomical viewing - logically, must therefore be full of peeping toms looking in each other's highrise windows.

(Apparently the author was utterly ignorant of the fact that the big NYC dealers were selling telescopes at deep discounts, and therefore were doing much of their business nationally by mail-order in a self-fueling cycle - because their volume allowed them to undercut the prices charged at Podunk camera stores.)

#22 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 05:05 AM:

Speaking of taxes rvealing hidden preferences, the current Dutch rightwing supported by racists government has been going on a bit of an ideological kicking of the arts, decrying subsidy for things like opera etc as "leftwing hobbies". So they cut subsidies and upped the V.A.T. rates on everything arty from 6 to 19 percent -- except on porn.

Is wanking a rightwing hobby?

#23 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 03:33 PM:

Alan Yee @13: Some of the drunk driving issue is that in the US, broadly speaking, nobody can go anywhere except in a car. If you drive to a restaurant or bar, you'll drive home if you can. Or if you only think you can.

On the main topic: When last I checked, the difference between Massachusetts prices and New Hampshire prices on alcoholic beverages was better explained by New Hampshire getting volume pricing and economies of scale in its large, high-turnover stores. As opposed to the small, independent, low-turnover, usually very grubby, and until recently closed-on-Sundays stores of Massachusetts. The liquor tax rates are very similar, and the sales tax doesn't explain the inflated sticker prices in MA.

For California residents: In Massachusetts, two-buck Chuck cost $5 a bottle when last I checked.

#24 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 05:08 PM:

Martin Wisse: Is wanking a rightwing hobby?

Considering the right wing wankers who bloviate on politics each week, I'd say it's more of an avocation...

#25 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2011, 06:11 PM:
Is wanking a rightwing hobby?

I'd say, more of a profession.

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 03:02 AM:

Fragano @14: Alas, I discover from Google Maps that Liquor Palms in Mesa, AZ no longer exists. It was a drive-through liquor store, a small glass-walled gem of neo-Sputnik suburban architecture that left its interior lights on all night. During the brief hours when they were closed, they'd just switch off their huge freestanding neon sign, which was two stories tall and showed a couple of palm trees plus the words "Liquor Palms."

I'll never forget the reaction of a visiting fan from Ontario, which at the time had the most dismal, inconvenient, semiotically chilly state-run liquor stores imaginable, when he first saw Liquor Palms. It was partly the luminous exuberance of the thing itself that got him, and partly the mere concept of a drive-through liquor store; but I'm pretty sure the sign saying they'd be happy to cash your paycheck was also part of his bogglement.

Another Mesa store, less aesthetically ambitious but with some of the same exuberance, here.

#27 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 07:22 AM:

That headline number is off the scale. The US as a whole runs at something like 2.3 gallons of alcohol per head per year, and NH is selling 48.7!

This table suggests that's off by a factor of 10. NH is still #1, but at "only" 4.31 gallons of ethanol per head.

A quick check on the beer number in the linked report says about 300 gallons of beer per head, which agrees with Jim's report. So, the 48.7 number is likely just an error.

#28 ::: Columbina ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 09:14 AM:

@4: Although it's been some 25 years since I left Louisiana, I'm told by reliable sources that the drive-through daiquiri stands have finally been eliminated.

The thing that really threw me when first ventured into the north was the idea of a dedicated liquor store being the only place to buy alcohol. MA isn't as bad as some states on this, but in LA there are very few outright liquor stores because all the grocery stores have a booze section, and all the gas stations sell beer.

I don't know, anecdotally, that there's more excessive drinking in LA than in any other state - it's just that in LA we like unfettered ACCESS to the hooch. (Well, the bottom half of the state does; the people in the top half of the state don't drink, but the bottom half believes that the top half isn't really part of Louisiana and wishes Texas or Arkansas would annex it.)

I have never driven from MA into NH to buy booze, but a friend of mine, whenever he visits from NYC in a car, arranges to set aside one afternoon so he can drive into NH, fill his trunk, and take the booze all the way back home to NYC. Now that's dedication.

#29 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 11:00 AM:

The French Territorial Collectivity of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (off the Newfoundland coast) is rumored* to have the worlds highest per-capita sales of alcohol and tobacco ... prior to being smuggled to Canada. What was a major boom during Prohibition has continued to the present, profitability today based on the difference between French and Canadian "sin tax" rated.

*Rumored: Unable to find a citation.

#30 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 12:35 PM:

The "booze cruise", going from the UK, across the English channel, to France, so as to stock up on alcohol, isn't news any more here.

In theory, the customs exemptions, under EU rules, apply to personal use. There have been court cases over people going to stock up for such events as a family wedding. How do you distinguish that from an illicit trader?

The British system made it possible for a district to be "dry", through the local council's control of the issue of liquor licenses. That persisted in Wales for a long time. The story goes that the local customs officer thought he'd caught a fishing boat smuggling one day. Not so: they had the receipts from an off-licence (liquor store) in a town a few miles along the coast.

#31 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2011, 01:33 PM:

I've been to meetings either in or travelling via Brussels or Amsterdam several times in the past couple of years. I make sure I have wheeled luggage and (particularly if flying, because the luggage has to go in the hold) plenty of bubble wrap. Because there are so many wonderful varieties of beer to be picked up even just at supermarkets in Brussels (at really good prices), while De Beerkonigen in Amsterdam* (more expensive) stocks c. 1,000 different beers from various countries, and it would be a real shame not to take advantage, when I'm there anyway... The booze cruise to Calaise isn't really worth it for our tastes, but we've recently heard about a ferry trip to Dunkirk which would put us fairly close to a variety of good places for decent beers.

Note: The very high taxes on alcohol here in the UK have not dampened consumtion, that I've noticed.

* Thank you, Abi, for taking me there the first time (and now I've discovered that the supermarket round the corner stocks my favourite Pickwick teas - Zoethout, Sterrenmunt and Minty Morocco - I'm even happier).

#32 ::: spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 09:06 PM:

[ posted from ]

#33 ::: Jon Meltzer sees off-topic political spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 09:38 PM:

Uh, what?

#34 ::: Allan Beatty spots trollish spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 09:39 PM:

# 32

#35 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 10:05 PM:

And, flying in from the planet Weebo...

#36 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 04:23 AM:

Columbina: I was very confused, because when you said, LA, I thought you meant Los Angeles, and the idea that N. Calif doesn't drink was very confusing.

#37 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 06:07 AM:

Dave Bell #30 The "booze cruise", going from the UK, across the English channel, to France, so as to stock up on alcohol, isn't news any more here.

The change in exchange rates has eliminated some of the advantage in crossing to France. However this has been more noticeable with popping over for non-booze items (mostly food). The drink is just cheap rather than hilariously cheap.

#38 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 02:32 PM:

When you add up 309.3 16 oz. cans of beer (that's around a six-pack a week, which is nothing), plus 29.4 750 mL bottles of wine (a bit over two a month), plus 4.3 gallons of the hard stuff (a bit under two bottles a month) ... it comes in right around 48.7 gallons. I don't think this is an order-of-magnitude error.

#39 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 03:11 PM:

I think the question is whether they're measuring the amount of ethanol, or the amount of ethanol-containing beverages. The 48 gal is about what those figures multiply out to; at a rough estimate, only about 10% of the content of all that is pure ethanol. I think Jim and Niall are comparing different things (and each right in their own context).

#40 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 10:27 PM:

A side note, last week the lege voted to cut the cigarette tax by $0.10 per pack and, to make up for the lost revenue, cut support to higher education. Bad public health policy + bad education policy = long term death spiral

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 10:33 PM:

Sharon #40:

Cutting taxes and cutting higher education. That's the Republican dream!

(The idea is that folks in neighboring states will burn a bunch of $4.00 gasoline to save $0.10 on their cigarettes, and, while they're here, support local business. Go, free trade!)

#42 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 11:06 PM:

Fragano @ #5: We saw a similar thing happen when my Dad's hometown of Georgetown, TX finally went wet*. The DWI's went down, anecdotally because before, Bubba had to drive to Round Rock to get his liquor, and had time to polish off a six-pack on the way home. Though Georgetown has grown like Topsy, it's still not big enough to have time to make big inroads into a six-pack between the store and home.

Incidentally, it used to be possible to see TX counties that were wet as a whole, but dry in every single component part, a classic example of NIMBY.

*Enough northerners moved in to change the vote, and the "go wet" proposer no longer had to leave town after the proposal's defeat.

#43 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 11:15 PM:

I'm constantly astonished at the willingness of people who claim to be so independent and self-reliant -- Live Free and Die, Man! -- to base their entire economy on alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets (basically Other People's vices), fireworks, restaurant & hotel taxes (9% and counting), and tourism. I'm here under duress, an exile from Connecticut, and I hope I don't have to spend another winter here.

#44 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 12:18 AM:

Sharon, you forgot property taxes. That's the biggie.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 02:07 AM:

sharon, #43: That's what happens when "never give a sucker an even break" gets into the political structure.

#46 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 09:02 AM:

@sharon / Jim -

I hope my neighbors will forgive me for pointing out that when we see a vehicle in Maine with NH plates we mutter "Live Free or Die Trying To."

(It doesn't help when the vehicle in question is weaving through traffic without turn signals and double points if the driver has neglected to apply his/her seatbelt.)

New Hampshire: We Make Mainers Look Cooperative.

#47 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:53 PM:

Ah, local liquor laws and such.

I just read a Chelsea Handler book [surprisingly enjoyable!] and there is a reference to something I was sure she'd made up: "Home James", a service where someone comes out to the bar on a scooter, puts the scooter in your car trunk, drives you home and goes back on their scooter.

There are enough references on the internet to make me think it's real. Or was. It may have gone out of business.

I live in a dry [sic] town which has liquor stores, but no places that serve both food and booze. Yes, there are a lot of "BYOB" restaurants and liquor stores right next to each other. Why do you ask?

#48 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 12:59 AM:

sandyb @47: an episode of top gear in 2005 had the hosts attempting to serve as scooterman drivers. presumably scooterman is the uk equivalent of home james.

#49 ::: webmccullogh ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 03:23 PM:

You should also include a portion of the population of Quebec. Just back in Montreal after a Cape Cod vacation with two bottles of rum and two bottles of margarita (as per #1, from the rest stop store on I-93 just south of I-89). Quebec charges almost the same price for the 750 ml bottle of Mount Gay as the New Hampshire price for the 1.75 litre bottle. The prices are lower than the duty-free shops in Vermont or New York and there is no contest when it comes to selection.

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