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Location of Missouri.
Flag of the State of Missouri.

The alcohol laws of Missouri are among the most permissive in the United States; they are similar to those of Nevada and Louisiana. Missouri is known for this approach throughout the Midwest; it stands in sharp contrast to some of its neighboring states’ very strict alcohol laws (such as Kansas and Oklahoma).

Despite the permissiveness of Missouri’s alcohol laws when compared to other U.S. states, they are comparatively strict by international standards. For example, as in all the other U.S. states, the minimum age in Missouri for purchase and possession of alcohol is 21 years.

As discussed in this article, Missouri's lax alcohol regime (as compared to other U.S. states) includes:

  • No differentiation of liquor laws based on alcohol percentage;
  • No statewide criminal prohibition on public intoxication, as well as a provision forbidding local jurisdictions from enacting criminal public intoxication laws;
  • No statewide prohibition on drinking in public, although virtually every municipality does prohibit public drinking on its own;
  • No prohibition on the manufacture, importation, sale, transportation, possession, or consumption of absinthe;
  • No statewide vehicle open container law, thereby allowing passengers in motor vehicles (but not drivers) to consume alcohol openly, although 31 of Missouri's smaller municipalities do have local vehicle open container laws;[1]
  • No statewide precise locations for selling liquor off-premises (thus allowing even gas stations to sell hard liquor);
  • No alcohol blue laws;
  • No prohibition on consumption by minors (although purchase, possession, and intoxication by minors is prohibited);
  • 3:00 AM bar closing hours in St. Louis, Kansas City, and their surrounding areas;
  • No limitations on interstate shipments of lawfully-manufactured alcohol (except wine) in quantities of less than five gallons;
  • A provision preempting local jurisdictions from superseding the state alcohol laws, allowing them only to pass local laws which are the same as state law;
  • A provision forbidding a local option, specifically prohibiting counties and cities from banning the retail sale of liquor;
  • A provision permitting open containers in public in Downtown Kansas City entertainment districts;
  • A provision allowing Missourians over 21 to manufacture up to 100 gallons of any alcohol for personal use each year, without any further state limitation, state license, or state taxation;
  • And a provision allowing parents and guardians to furnish alcohol to their children (although not to the level of neglect or abuse).[2]


History of Missouri alcohol laws

Nicknamed the "Show Me State" for Missourians' well-known "stalwart, conservative, noncredulous" attitude toward regulatory regimes and sumptuary laws in general,[3] Missouri has applied this tendency to its alcohol laws, both historically and today. Much of this owes itself to Missouri's position as a leading alcohol producing state, well known for wine production in areas like the Missouri Rhineland and for beer production in St. Louis by Anheuser-Busch, which produces Budweiser, a brand of beer known throughout the world. Anheuser-Busch continually lobbies to keep Missouri's alcohol laws as permissive as they are.[4]

During the height of the temperance movement in late-19th century and early-20th century America before passage of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act in 1919, which implemented nationwide prohibition, Missouri never implemented statewide prohibition on its own.[5] Missourians actually rejected prohibition in three separate referenda in 1910,[5] 1912, and 1918.[6] In April 1901, when temperance crusader Carrie A. Nation came to Kansas City and began to smash liquor bottles with her hatchet in bars there, she was promptly arrested, fined $500 ($11,500 in 2006 dollars[7]), and ordered by a judge to leave Missouri and never return.[8] The Missouri General Assembly was the second to last state legislature to ratify the 18th Amendment, and was the twentieth to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition in 1933.

During prohibition, Kansas City's Democratic political machine run by "Boss" Tom Pendergast saw to it that the city's liquor and saloon industries would not be affected and that the national prohibition law would not be enforced.[9] Thanks to Pendergast and his ilk, prohibition simply never existed in Kansas City, and Kansas City's federal prosecutor (who was on Pendergast's payroll) never brought a single felony prosecution under the Volstead Act.[10] This led an editorial writer in the Omaha Herald to remark, "If you want to see some sin, forget about Paris. Go to Kansas City."[10]

A Missouri statute passed in 1857 left all liquor regulation to local jurisdictions, including the question of whether to go dry.[11] So, despite the lack of statewide prohibition, by 1934 half of Missouri's counties enacted prohibition laws on their own. In that year, however, immediately after the end of nationwide prohibition, Missouri enacted its first Liquor Control Law, which superseded and repealed those dry counties' local laws.[12][13] Until that first Liquor Control Law, Missouri had no statewide regulation of liquor at all besides the collection of licensing fees.[14] Today, Missouri has no dry jurisdictions whatsoever.

Before state alcohol regulation began in 1934, many Missouri cities, including both St. Louis and Kansas City, banned Sunday liquor sales.[15] Missouri's original 1934 Liquor Control Law prohibited Sunday sales of beverages with more than 5% alcohol by volume, but this restriction was lifted entirely in 1975.[16]

What constitutes "intoxicating liquor"

Unlike many states, the alcohol laws of Missouri do not differentiate between types of alcohol based on the percentage of alcohol in a given beverage. Missouri's Liquor Control Law[17] covers any "alcohol for beverage purposes, alcohol, spiritous, vinous, fermented, malt, or other liquors, or combination of liquors, a part of which is spiritous, vinous, or fermented, and all preparations or mixtures for beverage purposes, containing in excess of one-half of one percent by volume."[18] Thus, the Liquor Control Law covers any type of alcoholic beverage which contains more than 0.5% alcohol by volume.

The only separate regulation is for beer containing at least 0.5% alcohol by volume and at most 3.2% alcohol by weight, which is classified as "nonintoxicating beer" (rather than a liquor) and is subject to a separate law from the Liquor Control Law.[19][20] The nonintoxicating beer law exempts covered beverages from many of the Liquor Control Law's regulations on sale, transportation, and consumption, including local control, as nonintoxicating beer permits and licenses are issued only by the state.[21] No nonintoxicating beer permitee or licensee may hold a liquor license, and vice-versa.[22] The same restrictions on sale to minors (and the same family furnishing exception discussed below) and hours for on-premises sale which are in the Liquor Control Law apply to nonintoxicating beer.[23] Today, for the most part, the Nonintoxicating Beer Law is rarely invoked, as the Liquor Control Law's permissive sale provisions for any alcoholic beverage makes so-called "three-two beer" a rarity in Missouri.

Any beverage containing less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (including low alcohol beer) is expressly exempt from all alcohol regulation in Missouri (including age restrictions), subject only to ordinary food safety laws.[18][20]


The packaging plant at the Anheuser-Busch headquarters in St. Louis

Missourians over the age of 21 may manufacture up to 100 gallons per person each year of any alcoholic beverage for personal use, without further limitation, without taxation, and without any license.[24] It should be noted, though, that for production of distilled alcohol (i.e. not beer or wine) for personal use, it probably still is necessary for the private citizen to obtain a permit from the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and meet other requirements under federal law.[25][26][27][28][29]

Besides that, however, the only alcohol which is illegal for sale or possession in Missouri is that which has been manufactured without a license and/or that on which the required taxes have not been paid.[30]

As a result, Missouri does not prohibit the manufacture, importation, sale, transportation, possession, or consumption of absinthe. Missouri's drug laws also contain no provision prohibiting Absinthe's essential ingredient, wormwood, or its underlying chemical substance, thujone.[31]

Liquor sales

Off-premises sales

A bar in Downtown Kansas City advertising "Liquors by drink or package," meaning that it is licensed as both a bar and liquor store.

Missouri has no specific state limitations on the places where alcohol may be sold "off-premises" (i.e. for consumption elsewhere). As a result, Missouri is famous in the region for grocery stores, drug stores, and even gas stations throughout the state which sell a wide variety of beer, wine, and liquor. As long as it is not located within 100 feet (30 m) of a school or church,[32] virtually any retail business (including a vague and undefined "general merchandise store") which obtains the proper licenses from the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and local authorities may sell any type of alcohol.[33] State law even forbids a local option and prohibits cities and counties from banning the off-premises sale of alcohol.[34]

Missouri does, however, limit the hours of retail alcohol sales to between 6:00 AM and 1:30 AM Monday through Saturday,[35] and - for an additional license fee - between 9:00 AM and midnight on Sunday.[36]

Most municipalities, including St. Louis[37] and Kansas City[38] have enacted local laws following the state law, which prohibit the retail sale of liquor between 1:30 AM and 6:00 AM Tuesday through Saturday, and between midnight on Sunday and 9:00 AM the following morning.

No Missouri law prohibits establishments from holding both off-premises and on-premises licenses. As a result, some businesses are licensed to sell liquor both "by the drink" (individually for consumption on premises) and "by the package" (by the container for consumption off premises). Effectively, these are bars which double as liquor stores. In these places, off-premises sales are allowed until 1:30 a.m., even in those in St. Louis and Kansas City specially licensed to serve liquor by the drink until 3:00 a.m. (on-premises sales may continue until 3:00, but off-premises sales must cease by 1:30).

On-premises sales

Generally, the hours for sales of liquor by the drink (for consumption on the premises) are the same as liquor by the package: between 6:00 AM and 1:30 AM Monday through Saturday,[35] and - again for an additional fee - between 9:00 AM and midnight on Sunday.[36] State law allows incorporated cities to prohibit the on-premises sale of liquor by public referendum,[39] although no city in Missouri ever has held such a referendum. The on-premises sale of liquor is allowed throughout the state, without any limitation except for the hours when sale is permitted.

Since 1981, properly licensed establishments with certain levels of annual revenue in Kansas City,[40] Jackson County,[40] North Kansas City,[40] St. Louis,[41] and St. Louis County[42] have been permitted to sell liquor by the drink between 6:00 AM and 3:00 AM Mondays through Saturdays, and between 11:00 AM and 3:00 AM on Sundays.


Except for wine, Missouri places no limitations on the interstate shipping of alcohol into the state, as long the alcohol is in a quantity less than five gallons, has been lawfully manufactured in its source jurisdiction, and is shipped to a person who is at least 21 years of age.[43][44] There are no quantity limits whatsoever for shipments which are entirely within Missouri or which are made by licensed Missouri alcohol retailers.[43]

Bulk shipments

To ship alcohol into Missouri in quantites greater than five gallons, both the commercial carrier doing the shipping and the sender itself must obtain a "transporter's license" from the Missouri Department of Revenue and pay the necessary licensing fees.[43] Additionally, for such shipments, the commercial carrier must be generally licensed to do business by the Department of Economic Development.[44] In practice, ordinary commercial shippers like FedEx and UPS have the necessary licenses.

Special regulations for wine shipments

An alcohol retailer licensed in Missouri or in any other state which has similar, "reciprocal" wine-shipping laws may ship up to two cases of wine each year to any Missouri resident over the age of 21, provided that the wine is for personal use and not for resale.[45] Such a delivery is deemed not to be a sale in Missouri.[45]

Otherwise, for direct shipments of wine from a winery, a wine manufacturer licensed in Missouri or any other state can obtain a "wine direct shipper license" from the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control which lets that manufacturer ship up to two cases of wine per month to any person in Missouri who is at least 21 years of age.[46] Unlike shipments under the "reciprocal" provision, for shipments under this provision, the wine manufacturer must use a licensed alcohol carrier.[46]

Open container


Skyline of St. Louis, Missouri, where, as in most of Missouri, passengers (but not drivers) may possess open containers and drink openly in moving vehicles

Although a driver is prohibited from consuming alcohol while driving,[47] Missouri has no general open container law for vehicles, a characteristic which Missouri shares only with the states of Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Virginia, and West Virginia.[48] Any non-driving vehicle passenger thus is permitted to possess an open container and consume alcohol in Missouri while the vehicle is in motion, although 31 smaller municipalities, the largest being Independence and St. Charles, have local open container laws.[1] The metropolises of St. Louis and Kansas City have no local open container laws, and thus the state law (or lack thereof) governs.[1] This makes it possible for a passenger to drink legally through the entire 250-mile (400 km) trip across Missouri on Interstate 70 between Downtown Kansas City and Downtown St. Louis, only closing his container while passing through the city limits of Independence, Bates City, Foristell, and St. Charles.[1]

As a result of having no state open container laws, under the federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century of 1999, a percentage of Missouri's federal highway funds is transferred instead to alcohol education programs each year.[1][49] Since 1999, the Missouri General Assembly has considered several bills which would have created open container regimens satisfying the federal law, but each one "failed due to weak legislative support."[1] Anheuser-Busch leads opposition to enacting a passenger open container law.[4]

In public

Missouri also is one of only six states (along with Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, and Pennsylvania) which has no state law prohibiting drinking in public, although an establishment selling liquor by the drink ordinarily may not permit a patron to take unfinished liquor off the premises.[50] Restaurant and winery patrons, though, may take unfinished bottles of wine out of the restaurant or winery, provided that the containers are closed and placed in sealed bags.[50]

Missouri has no state public intoxication law either, unlike many other states, and state law expressly prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting any law "which authorizes or requires arrest or punishment for public intoxication or being a common or habitual drunkard or alcoholic."[51]

It is a misdemeanor in Missouri, however, to be both intoxicated and disorderly or to consume or offer any alcoholic beverage specifically in any school, church, or courthouse.[52] Consumption and offering in courthouses is permitted, though, at social functions after business hours when authorized by the court.[52]

Despite the lack of a general state law prohibiting drinking in public, nearly all municipalities, including both St. Louis[53] and Kansas City,[54] do prohibit drinking in public. St. Louis, however, does allow picnickers in public parks to consume alcohol without limitation[55]

Special allowance for open containers in public in Kansas City

Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, where open containers will be allowed in the street in certain areas beginning in the spring of 2008

In 2005, anticipating Kansas City's new Power & Light District, a nine-block shopping, bar, and restaurant entertainment district in Downtown Kansas City, and after lobbying by the Cordish Company of Baltimore (the District's developer), the Missouri General Assembly passed a new law pertaining to any "entertainment district" in Downtown Kansas City which will allow patrons to remove any alcoholic beverage from any establishment in the district and carry it openly throughout the district, provided that the beverage is in a plastic cup marked with the logo of the establishment at which it was purchased.[56][57][58]

It remains unclear how this will be interpreted or enforced once the Power & Light District opens in the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2008, for now the provision widely has been accepted as allowing drinking "in the street."[58] If so, the Power & Light District will be one of only a few places in the United States with such an open container allowance. The City Council of Kansas City has extended this provision to include any portion not open to vehicular traffic of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the Crossroads Arts District, the 18th and Vine Historic District, the Liberty Memorial, Crown Center, and the Union Hill neighborhood.[59]


Like every other state in the United States, driving under the influence is a crime in Missouri, and is subject to a great number of regulations outside of the Liquor Control Law.[60] Missouri's maximum blood alcohol level for driving is .08% for persons over the age of 21[61] and .02% for minors and adults under age 21.[62 ]

Ordinarily, DUI is a misdemeanor in Missouri, although the third DUI conviction becomes a felony.[63] Refusal to take a chemical test (i.e. breathalyzer) when so requested by a law enforcement officer who has probable cause will result in a one-year suspension of the suspect's driver's license.[64]

Minors and alcohol in Missouri

Drinking age

Missouri's drinking age has been 21 since 1945.[62 ] That is, Missouri law prohibits minors from possessing or purchasing alcohol. Thus, when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 came into effect on January 1, 1985, Missouri was in no danger of losing federal highway funds.

A minor in possession (MIP) of alcohol or a business or person which furnishes alcohol to a minor is guilty of a misdemeanor, although for sellers there are numerous defenses and exceptions.[2] Missouri is one of six states, however, with a unique exception which allows a minor to be furnished alcohol by his or her parent or guardian.[2] Of course, if a parent or guardian purposefully intoxicated his or her child, it would be a form of child abuse. Rather, this sort of law allows parents to let their children have a small amount of liquor with a meal, at social gatherings, in religious services, or otherwise use alcohol in moderation. Additionally, although Missouri prohibits minors from possessing or purchasing alcohol, it is one of twenty states (and the District of Columbia) which have no specific law prohibiting the consumption of alcohol by minors.

In 2005, though, the Missouri General Assembly amended the Liquor Control Law to prohibit any minor from having a blood alcohol level higher than .02%.[2] This new law has been referred to as "Possession by Consumption".[65] It remains unclear how the provision permitting family consumption, the lack of a specific consumption prohibition, and the new "minor under the influence" law will work together.

Special expungement for MIP

Since 2005, Missouri law has had a special method of expungement for a person who pleaded guilty to or was convicted of being a minor in possession of alcohol one time in Missouri. If more than a year has passed since the charge was disposed of or the person turns twenty-one, whichever is earlier, and the person has had no other MIP expungements and has had no other alcohol-related law enforcement contacts (like drunk driving or violating the terms of a liquor license), then all records of the case can be completely deleted upon proper application to the Circuit Court of the county in which the person was charged.[66]

Fake ID

In Missouri, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine for a person under 21 to represent by virtue of displaying a fake ID that he or she is over 21 for the purposes of purchasing or possessing alcohol.[67] Additionally, it constitutes a separate misdemeanor under the Liquor Control Law if the minor reproduced or altered the ID himself,[68] punishable by up to one year in prison[69] and/or a fine of up to $1,000.[70]

The forgery of an identity document is a separate felony in Missouri,[71] punishable by up to seven years in prison[69] and/or a fine of up to $5,000 (or if financial gain was made, up to the amount of that financial gain).[70] Possession of forgery instruments also is a felony with the same prospective punishments as that of ordinary forgery.[72]

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b c d e f Justin Roberts, "Missouri State and Local Open Container Laws," University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy, June 2005
  2. ^ a b c d Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.310
  3. ^ Missouri Secretary of State - State Archives - Origin of "Show Me" slogan
  4. ^ a b "Anheuser ends opposition to .08 in Missouri," Modern Brewery Age, January 22, 2001
  5. ^ a b Kenneth H. Winn, "It All Adds Up: Reform and the Erosion of Representative Government in Missouri, 1900-2000," published by the Missouri Secretary of State
  6. ^ Ira M. Wasserman, "Prohibition and Ethno-Cultural Conflict: the Missouri Prohibition Referendum of 1918," Social Science Quarterly, Volume 70, pp. 886-901.
  7. ^ The Inflation Calculator
  8. ^ "Mrs. Nation Barred from Kansas City," The New York Times, April 16, 1901
  9. ^ Allan May, "The History of the Kansas City Family," Crime Magazine, October 10, 2002
  10. ^ a b Ken Burns, "Kansas City, a Wide Open Town," from Jazz, PBS, 1997
  11. ^ "Anti-saloonists win: St. Louis must close her saloons on Sunday", The New York Times, May 8, 1888
  12. ^ 11 CSR § 70-1.010(1) (Missouri Secretary of State - Code of State Regulations)
  13. ^ Annotations to Mo. Rev. Stat § 311.010
  14. ^ "For Missouri Prohibition; Senate Passes Resolution Submitting Constitutional Amendment to People", The New York Times, May 6, 1909
  15. ^ "Kansas City Lid Padlocked: Not a Saloon Opened on Sunday Either on the Missouri or Kansas Side", The New York Times, July 2, 1906
  16. ^ Missouri Attorney General's Opinion 39-77
  17. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. Chapter 311
  18. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.020
  19. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat Chapter 312
  20. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 312.020
  21. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 312.030
  22. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 312.050
  23. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 312.400
  24. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.055
  25. ^ "Don't Try This at Home," Domestic Fuel: Alternative Fuel News: Archives, May 4, 2006
  26. ^ 26 U.S.C. § 5179
  27. ^ 26 U.S.C. § 5601
  28. ^ 26 U.S.C. § 5602
  29. ^ 27 CFR Part 19
  30. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.580
  31. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. Chapter 195
  32. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.080
  33. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.200
  34. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.170
  35. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.290
  36. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.293
  37. ^ City of St. Louis Rev. Code of Ordinances §§ 14.03.030-040
  38. ^ Kansas City Code of Ordinances §§ 10-333 and 10-104
  39. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.110
  40. ^ a b c Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.174
  41. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.176
  42. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.178
  43. ^ a b c Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.410
  44. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.420
  45. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.462
  46. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.185
  47. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 577.017
  48. ^ United States Department of Transportation - Open Container Law Conformance
  49. ^ 23 U.S.C. § 154
  50. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.101
  51. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 67.305
  52. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 574.075
  53. ^ City of St. Louis Rev. Code of Ordinanes § 14.05.010
  54. ^ Kansas City Code of Ordinances § 50-152
  55. ^ City of St. Louis Rev. Code of Ordinances § 14.05.010(a)
  56. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.086
  57. ^ Kansas City Code of Ordinances §§ 10-134 and 10-135
  58. ^ a b Rick Alm, "Drinking to be allowed on street in Power & Light District," The Kansas City Star, July 27, 2005
  59. ^ Kansas City Code of Ordinance § 10-134(c)
  60. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. Chapter 577
  61. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 577.012
  62. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.325
  63. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 577.023
  64. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 577.041
  65. ^ Missouri Minor in Possession by Consumption
  66. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.326
  67. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.320
  68. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 311.329
  69. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 558.011
  70. ^ a b Mo. Rev. Stat. § 560.016
  71. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.090
  72. ^ Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.100

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