Visiting family for the holidays can mean endless hours of driving, navigating unfamiliar roads, and for many, the frustration of trying to figure out where you can buy that bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau you promised you'd pick up. Thanks to the bizarre remnants of prohibition that still have a hold over alcohol distribution laws in the United States, knowing when and where to buy booze can be a complicated logic puzzle that would make even SAT question writers squirm.
Take Pennsylvania as an example, it's one of the strictest states. Say you're hosting a party, and want to buy a case of cheap beer, a couple of twelve packs of the nice stuff, a few bottles of wine, and a handle of tequila. Here's how that adventure would go: First, you'd need to go to a privately run beer distributor to purchase the keg, since they're the only ones licensed for that. But beer distributors can't sell anything smaller than a case or a keg, so for the twelve packs, you'd have to head elsewhere. You move on to the nearest grocery store for that, but once you're there, you realize that they don't have an 'eating place retail dispenser license,' which means that you can only purchase 192 oz of beer at a time (for those who don't want to solve an algebra problem just to get a drink, that's 16 twelve-ounce beers). To get around that bizarre restriction, you buy one twelve pack, walk to your car, drop it off, and walk back in to buy the second one. Now it's off to the state-run liquor store, the only place you can buy wine and tequila. By the time you've done all that, you're now late for your own party. Meanwhile, someone throwing the same party in Washington, DC was able to order everything online and have it delivered to their door.