Drinking and Smoking: A Guide to Austin
Just a quick refresher for those who have read my Quick Guide to Texas, but I wanted to remind everyone of the drinking and liquor laws in the State of Texas and the smoking laws (and some general tips).Beer, Wine, and Alcohol in Bars/Restaurants
You must be 21 years of age to purchase alcohol in the State of Texas. Doesn't matter if you're 20 and can drink in England/Austra
r, you must be 21 years of age to purchase alcohol in Texas regardless of type or location. Period. You must have a government ID to purchase alcohol. This is a driver's license, state-issued ID card, a military ID card, or a passport. Some places may accept other IDs (such as foreign drivers licenses or other photo IDs that have your age), but the bar/restaurant
e can refuse to sell to you for any reason and the further away you get from a state ID, drivers license, or passport, the more scrutiny it'll be under. Forget your ID at home, you're SOL.
The loophole: You are legally allowed to drink alcohol while under 21 if and only if your parent or legal guardian purchases the drink, they themselves are the one who is served the drink, and then they serve it to you. This is legal, but it is not required by law that they do so, so don't bank on it or try to argue if they say no.
Admittance to any location that serves alcohol is a bit...odd. You must be 21 years of age to enter any location that makes more than 51% of their revenue from alcohol-related sales, unless they have a special license in which case you must be 18...unless they're a venue for concerts or performances primarily, in which case they can be all ages. Yeah...restaur
ants, on the other hand, are easier. All-ages unless otherwise stated. If you're not sure how to tell a restaurant that serves drinks from a bar that serves food, they'll have a sign up. Also, call in advance if you have any concerns.
Drinking in public is not allowed. You cannot take drinks with you in "to-go" cups (apparently this is a New Orleans thing, I'd never heard of it and I grew up on the TX/LA border). No open containers are allowed in vehicles or public areas. Open glass containers of ANY kind (alcoholic or not) are not allowed in the 6th Street area, but the cops are usually nice and will let you finish it before they make you throw it away.
No alcohol sales in bars is allowed after 2 AM and all drinks must be collected by 2:15 AM. No ifs, ands, or buts. Clubs don't screw around with that one because the TABC likes to stake out popular places and fine them if they aren't collecting drinks by 2AM. Don't try arguing that their clocks are fast either - they're fast for a reason, so make sure they don't get fined.Beer, Wine, and Alcohol from Stores
Beer and wine may be purchased for off-site consumption in grocery stores, convenience stores, etc. between the hours of 7AM and 12 midnight on Monday-Friday, from 7AM to 1AM on Saturday night, and from 12 noon to 12 midnight on Sundays. Again, you must be 21 years of age to purchase and many locations will card everyone
with you if any of you look underage. This is once again to avoid fines. Beer and "malt liquors" (Mike's wine coolers, Zima, etc.) must be purchased in packs of at least four unless the single bottle/can is at least 24oz.
Hard liquor (defined by alcohol by volume percentage which I think is 8% but I'm not totally sure, but basically the line is strong wines like port or sake are considered liquor) may only be purchased for off-site consumption at designated liquor stores. Liquor stores are open from 10AM to 9PM on Monday through Saturday PERIOD. No sales before, no sales after, and absolutely NO sales on Sunday. None. Zero. I know.
Many liquor stores will actually card you at the door, so be warned. Mini-bottles (those little airplane-sized tiny bottles) can only be purchased in threes unless you purchase a half-pint/pint/fift
tever at the same time.
If you want to bring alcohol into the state, please note this is ILLEGAL. It's illegal like tearing the tag off your mattress is illegal, but it's still illegal. Hide it well and they won't care most likely, but be warned that they can confiscate it and possibly fine you for bootlegging. The up side is that Texas doesn't care how much alcohol LEAVES the state, so if you want to bring home some Lone Star, Shiner, Tito's, or Dripping Springs; feel free! Just contact your own state/country's alcohol commission and customs to check THEIR laws first.Cigarettes, Cigars, Tobacco, and Smoking
Tobacco may be purchased only by those of 18 years of age or older. They're actually stricter about this than alcohol (I've been carded more for a pack of Camels than I have for a party's worth of vodka and bourbon). If you "look under 30", they'll card you. If you want to bring your own cigarettes into the state, you are only legally allowed to bring in 9 loose packs and/or 4 cartons. Again, bootlegging laws.
Here's the fun part - THERE IS NO SMOKING INDOORS IN ANY BUSINESS IN AUSTIN...unles
s they have a special license or a patio smoking area. No smoking in bars, restaurants, stores, etc. You must be 15 feet from any entrance/exit as well.
Tip: The best place downtown is the CVS store on 5th and Congress for normal brands as they're the cheapest in the area. Expect to pay $5-7 a pack for cigarettes including all taxes at most places, $4-5 a pack for the no-name brand, and $2/pack for those godawful "cigarette-sized cigars" everyone buys to get around the cigarette taxes. Loose tobacco for rolling your own will also cost you about $3/pack. If you buy in a bar or at any of the convenience stores downtown, expect to pay $7-9/pack. If you like cigars, there's an amazing cigar shop on 6th Street right around Red River. They also sell imported European and Asian cigarettes. Please note I rarely smoke cigars, so I don't know about their selection or prices, but it's a big store and the people are nice.