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Liquor store

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Title: Liquor store  
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Subject: Alcohol law, Alcoholic beverage control state, Wine of the Month Club, Alcohol laws of the United States, John Plagis
Collection: Alcohol Distribution Retailers, Alcohol Law
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Liquor store

The interior of a liquor store in Breckenridge, Colorado.

A liquor store is a retail shop that sells prepackaged alcoholic beverages — typically in bottles — intended to be consumed off the store's premises. Depending on region and local idiom, they may also be called bottle store, off licence, bottle shop, bottle-o, package store (in Boston, called a packie),[1] ABC store, state store, or other similar terms. Many states and jurisdictions have an alcohol monopoly.


  • African states 1
  • United Kingdom and Ireland 2
  • Oceania 3
  • Nordic countries 4
  • European Union 5
  • United States 6
  • Canada 7
  • References 8

African states

In South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, these stores are generally called bottle stores.

United Kingdom and Ireland

In the United Kingdom and Ireland the corresponding term is off licence, which refers to the fact that alcohol may be bought on the licensed premises, but must be consumed off the premises. A commonly used slang term for the off licence is "offie" or "offy".

Almost all supermarkets and grocery stores, and many petrol stations, have an off-licence.

The price of alcohol in off licence establishments is substantially lower than in on-licence establishments (bars, pubs, and restaurants).


  • Australia - Regulation of alcoholic beverage sales is a state responsibility. Generally, beer, wine and spirits must be purchased at a bottle shop, colloquially known as a bottle-o in some states. These may be a separate section of a supermarket or an individual store - major retail corporations usually have their own bottle shop franchises located close to their supermarket operations. Drinking establishments may also sell liquor for off-site consumption. Drive-through alcoholic retail outlets are common. The state of Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory permit the sale of alcoholic beverages from supermarkets and convenience stores.
  • New Zealand - Supermarkets may sell beer, cider and wine with no more than 15% ABV only. Spirits (whisky, brandy, rum, gin, vodka etc.), including ready to drink (RTD) mixed spirits, must be purchased at bottle shops.

Nordic countries

Note: All Nordic countries, except Denmark, have government-owned alcohol monopolies.
  • Denmark - Alcoholic beverages can be bought at any grocery store or kiosk.
  • Faroe Islands - Alcoholic beverages above 1.8% ABV can be bought in Rúsdrekkasøla Landsins, also known as Rúsan
  • Finland - Grocery stores may sell beer and other alcoholic beverages of less than 4.7% alcohol by volume (ABV), if the alcohol is produced by fermentation. All other alcohol must be purchased in the Alko store.
  • Iceland - Can only be bought at hard-liquor stores. Vínbúð stores.
  • Norway - Alcoholic beverages above 4.8% ABV can only be bought at Vinmonopolet stores.
  • Sweden - Grocery stores may sell beer and cider no higher than 3.5% ABV. All other alcohol must be purchased in the state-run Systembolaget stores, also known as Bolaget or Systemet.

European Union

In Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain all supermarkets, convenience stores, and gas stations may sell beer, wine, and liquors only if they possess a licence to run this kind of sale. The consumption of alcohol on premises is not forbidden, but is frowned upon. In the Netherlands supermarkets are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages up to 15% ABV, hard liquor is only sold from specialized bottle shops.

United States

Some states in the United States operate their own retail stores for the sale of certain types of alcohol, such as this state-run liquor store in Cottonwood Heights, Utah.
The Bunghole, a liquor store in Salem, Massachusetts, a non-ABC state.

The Twenty-first Amendment of the United States Constitution allows states to regulate the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.[2] State regulations vary widely. The majority of the U.S. states have laws specifying which alcoholic beverages must be sold in specialty liquor stores and which may be sold in other venues.

In eighteen alcoholic beverage control (ABC) states, the specialty liquor stores are owned and operated exclusively by the state government, where liquor stores often sell only spirits or sometimes sell spirits and wine but not beer. ABC-run stores may be called ABC stores or state stores.

In Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, liquor stores are also technically known as package stores, because purchased liquor must be packaged in sealed bottles or other containers when it is taken from the store.[3]

In five states (Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Utah), only low-point beer may be sold in supermarkets or gas stations.

In some states (e.g., California, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin), all alcoholic beverages can be sold practically anywhere, including drug stores and gas stations.

In Washington state, all beer and wine are available in specialty stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, department stores, taverns, and other locations. All spirits are available in stores greater than 10,000 sq ft (such as grocery stores, big box liquor chains, and drug stores). There are two exceptions to the 10,000-sq-ft rule: 1) former state and contract liquor stores that reopened under private ownership may also sell spirits provided they have been issued a new license from the state; and 2) cities, mostly in rural areas, that do not have a store that meets the minimum floor space may be allowed to sell spirits if the Liquor Control Board deems that there are no sufficient establishments within the trade area.


All provinces except Alberta and British Columbia have government-owned retail liquor monopolies. Alberta has only privately owned liquor stores. British Columbia has both private and government-owned retail liquor outlets.

Due to federal law, all provincial liquor boards must act as the first importer of alcoholic beverages.[4][5]

  • Alberta - Only liquor stores may sell alcoholic beverages in urban areas, but unlike other provinces they are all privately owned and operated. Recently the province has allowed supermarkets to open attached liquor stores, but with separate entrances. Urban gasoline (petrol) stations and convenience stores may also have attached liquor stores but with separate entrances and ownership. In areas without another liquor retailer within a 15 km radius, any licensed retailer may sell beer, wine, and liquor, including convenience stores, general stores, and gasoline (petrol) stations. The AGLC has retained its monopoly over the wholesaling of imported beer, wine and distilled spirits, although the distribution of these products is done by a private contractor.
  • British Columbia - Alcoholic beverages may be sold only:
    • in privately owned retail stores (stores can only be operated by primary liquor license holders, such as bars, pubs and hotels, but the stores can be located off site)
    • in government-owned stores,
    • in rural government-appointed liquor agencies (which may be a gas station or convenience store).
    • There are also VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) wine stores, which are privately owned. These stores only sell only British Columbia wines that have the VQA designation; these wines are sold at the same price as in the government liquor stores. There are also a limited number of private wine shops, which can sell both British Columbia and non-British Columbia wines.
    • In 2012 British Columbia announced it planned to fully privatize liquor wholesale distribution by 2015. In September 2012 the initiative to privatize liquor wholesale distribution was cancelled, a term agreed upon during contract negotiations with the BCGEU.
  • Manitoba - Only hotels may sell chilled domestic beer. Beer, Wine, and Liquor only sold by government owned Liquor Marts. There are also a limited number of private wine retailers in Manitoba as well.
  • New Brunswick - Only government owned liquor stores or rural government appointed liquor agencies may sell beer, wine, and liquor. However, breweries and cottage wineries may sell directly to the public if licensed to do so.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador - Convenience Stores may sell beer that is brewed locally. Wine, liquor and imported beer is only sold by government owned liquor stores, or rural government appointed liquor agencies.
  • Nova Scotia - In the past, only the provincially owned NSLC (Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation) could sell liquor products, including hard liquor, wine, and beer. Many NSLC locations are connected to grocery stores. Over the past five years, the NSLC began to allow a limited number of small private agency stores to operate in rural areas where there is not a NSLC location.
  • Ontario - Brewers Retail Inc. (operating as The Beer Store), originally owned by a co-operative of Ontario brewers but now owned by multinational brewers mostly based outside Canada, is the only privately owned entity that can sell beer. Only the provincially owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) may sell hard liquor or wine, though it also sells beer, particularly in small markets that Brewers Retail does not serve. There are also a limited number of privately owned specialty wine stores: Wine Rack, run by Vincor International and The Wine Shop (formerly Vineyards Estate Wines), run by Andres Wines. The province allows Ontario wineries to maintain a fixed number of off-site retail locations under a clause that was grandfathered into legislation when the Canada-US free-trade agreement came into effect in 1989, and further allowed by WTO regulations implemented in 1995. Ontario is the only province where a winery is able to form a partnership with a department store to operate such retail locations.[6][7]
  • Québec - Only the provincially owned Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) may sell hard liquor. Wine (that is bottled in Québec or distributed through a Québec representative) and beer (that is brewed in Québec or imported beer that is distributed by a local brewer) can be purchased at dépanneurs (corner stores) and supermarkets.
  • Saskatchewan - Only hotels, government-owned stores, and rural private/government liquor stores (i.e., private contractors) may sell beer, wine, and liquor.


  1. ^ Gordon, Heather (2004). Newcomer's Handbook For Moving To And Living In Boston: Including Cambridge, Brookline, And Somerville. First Books. p. 14.  
  2. ^ U.S. Constitution, Amendment XXI, Section 2.
  3. ^ E.g., Connecticut General Statutes, Chap. 545, Section 30-20.
  4. ^ Importation of Intoxicating Liquors ActCanadian
  5. ^ The distribution arrangements for Canadian alcohol sales are summarized in Statistics Canada's "The Control and Sale of Alcoholic Beverages in Canada," page 46. [3]
  6. ^ Details on the Vincor and Wal-Mart retail locations
  7. ^ Full details about Ontario's retail alcohol system can be found in the most current LCBO Annual Report. [4]
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