Dry Counties – What does that even mean?

I was re-reading the Lost Prohibition book earlier this week, and it jogged my memory talking about wet and dry counties, and how people got around them.

Throughout Texas, each county made it’s own decision before Prohibition about what their stance on alcohol sales and consumption. Some counties chose to be dry, which meant all sales were prohibited.

According to this, by the time Prohibition was approved, the only places choosing to be wet were places with large concentrations of immigrants. In 1935, voters ratified a repeal of the state dry law, which meant the issue was kicked to the counties.

Some counties were wet, and allowed the sale of alcohol. It’s sometimes quite easy to see where the county lines are, because usually liquor stores sprang up on the wet side of a wet/dry county line. My college town was in a dry county for a long time, and there were ghosts of liquor stores, abandoned on country roadsides, just outside the invisible dry line.

Then there’s a lot of counties with various restrictions on what alcohol could be sold. The most common are only 4% alcohol beer is legal, or 14% or less alcoholic beverages are legal.

Even more confusing, some cities and town enacted their own dry or modified dry zones, in wet counties.

A quick google search shows that as of 2015, there are still seven counties that are entirely dry, four that are beer only and thirteen where less than 14% spirits are allowed . Additionally, there are 8 counties where alcohol can be sold and consumed at restaurants only.

The practical side effect of this is, that even today, there are places in the Dallas area where I have to “join” a “club” to order a drink. To join the club they usually just need your driver’s license. I don’t remember an actual, physical card being issued in the past few years, but I know when I first moved to Dallas that did happen a few times.

Here’s a great article that describes some of the more unusual counties and their drinking laws.

One of the counties listed, Collin, is where I’m remembering having to join a club to get my wine. Incidentally, Collin County is where the Dallas Cowboys new practice facility is, with a booming retail/restaurant/bar scene.

Just some interesting information about the weird and wacky rules that still stick around today. UPDATE – This article does a good job of covering some of the nuances. “Texas is slightly earlier than the nation, and slightly later than the nation in terms of how long its Prohibition was enforced.”

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