Massachusetts, like other states, has the power to set its own beer laws. This can make things very confusing when you travel between states. Even if you don’t, laws change over time. What do the beer laws of Massachusetts look like in 2023?
In Massachusetts, you can buy beer, wine, and liquor every day of the week. Monday through Saturday, you can buy alcohol at a bar or restaurant between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. or at a convenience store between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. On Sunday, you can buy alcohol from 10 a.m. until 12 a.m. at a bar. Deliveries, growlers, and to-go orders are all legal.
The laws surrounding alcohol are complicated in any state. Keep reading to learn all of the important rules and regulations for buying a brew in Massachusetts.
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Is Massachusetts a dry state?
Geographic locations can be dry in both the physical and legal sense – Massachusetts is neither. It is quite humid and does not outlaw the sale of alcohol.
Massachusetts is not a dry state. Those above the age of 21 may buy alcohol any day of the week. However, there are some dry notes worth noting.
This is possible because the state grants localities the power to vote on their dry status.
Does Massachusetts have any dry counties?
When states allow localities to go dry, the most common case is counties that vote to become dry. That is not the case in Massachusetts.
There are no dry counties in Massachusetts. Instead, there are 8 dry towns. They include:
- Mount Washington
- West Hampton
These towns place strong limitations on when you may purchase alcohol, if at all. Some will restrict certain types of alcohol or simply restrict the hours all alcohol is legal.
When can you buy beer in Massachusetts?
Although the state of Massachusetts does not outlaw the sale of alcohol, it does restrict sales hours.
You can buy beer in Massachusetts from off-premise retailers between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. On-premise retailers can sell beer between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
Off-premise locations are those that sell alcohol for consumption off the premises. On-premise retailers like restaurants and bars sell alcohol for immediate consumption.
Can you buy beer on Sunday in Massachusetts?
Historically, there were no alcohol sales on Sundays. This has since been relaxed, but there are holdover Blue Laws in some states that restrict the sale hours further on Sundays. Massachusetts is one state that has separate legal sale hours on Sundays.
In Massachusetts, you can buy beer from liquor stores between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. Bars and restaurants can sell alcohol between 10 a.m. and 12 a.m.
On-premise retailers can extend their Sunday hours until 2 a.m. in some locations. In addition to these Sunday restrictions, there are hour restrictions on specific days.
On election days, there are no off-premise alcohol sales while the polls are open. On Memorial Day, there are no alcohol sales before 12 p.m. Lastly, on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, all off-premise sales are prohibited. On-premise sales are allowed on Thanksgiving but not Christmas.
When do bars close in Massachusetts?
As bars are considered on-premise alcohol retailers, they are limited by the on-premise retail hours. This means that there is a hard closing time in Massachusetts.
Bars in Massachusetts must close by 2 a.m. at the latest. Some areas will require bars to close earlier.
As mentioned in the previous section, there are a few special occasions when a bar will close earlier than normal.
Where can you buy beer in Massachusetts?
In addition to limits on hours, some states place restrictions on where you can buy alcohol. Massachusetts is one of the least restrictive in this area.
In Massachusetts, you can buy beer or liquor in all of the following locations:
- Bars and restaurants
- Gas stations
- Grocery stores
- Package and liquor stores
- Breweries and taprooms
Naturally, each type of retailer has specific regulations they must follow. Below are some of the most important.
Bars and restaurants
Massachusetts bars and restaurants can sell beer, wine, and liquor for on-premise consumption.
These locations can be open between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 a.m. and 12 a.m. on Sunday.
All sales must be for on-premise consumption, with a few exceptions. If you buy a bottle of wine and don’t finish it, you can take it home. Additionally, in recent years customers are allowed to get alcohol to go. This legislation has been extended into 2023.
Furthermore, bars and restaurants are allowed to offer samples, but happy hours are illegal.
Massachusetts gas stations can sell alcohol between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Their Sunday alcohol sale hours are between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. All sales must be for off-premise consumption.
Gas stations can offer alcohol samples if they so choose. These samples must be in small quantities. Beers can be sold in the form of cans or bottles.
You can buy alcohol from Massachusetts grocery stores from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Monday through Saturday. Sunday alcohol sale hours are from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. All sales must be for off-premise consumption.
Like other off-premise retailers, grocery stores can offer alcohol samples to customers of legal drinking age. All alcohol must be sold in the original packaging.
Package and liquor stores
Liquor and package stores can sell beer, wine, and liquor for off-premise consumption between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, they may sell alcohol between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.
These retailers can also offer samples as long as the sample sizes are small. Like other off-premise retailers, packie or liquor stores must sell alcohol in its original packaging.
Breweries and taprooms
Massachusetts breweries and taprooms can sell beers that they made for both on and off-premise consumption.
Sale hours are limited to 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, these hours are from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Brewpubs can sell beer in bottles, cans, on draft, and in growlers. These locations can fill growlers as long as they have their logo or are blank.
Can you get beer delivered in Massachusetts?
Outside of temporary provisions allowing restaurants and bars to deliver alcohol are there delivery options in Massachusetts?
You can get beer, wine, and liquor delivered in Massachusetts. There are a few requirements for these deliveries:
- Delivery drivers must carry a copy of their permit.
- The customer must be 21 years old or older.
- The customer must sign for the delivery and verify their age.
Deliveries can be organized through sites such as Drizzly but must be completed by permitted employees.
What is the minimum drinking age in Massachusetts?
No matter where you go in the United States, the drinking age is the same.
The minimum drinking age is 21 in Massachusetts.
That said, there are sometimes exceptions allowed by the state.
Can minors drink beer in Massachusetts with parents?
One of the most common exceptions is parental approval. In many states, minors can drink with their parents or guardians.
Massachusetts allows minors to drink in the presence of their parents, guardians, or grandparents. They must also be in a private residence at the time. This exception also applies to individuals providing alcohol to underage spouses.
Outside of these exceptions, drinking or possessing alcohol is illegal for all under 21.
Drinking laws in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is on the more restrictive side of alcohol laws in the United States. That said, most of the alcohol laws are not unreasonable.
Overall, Massachusetts is not overly strict with its alcohol laws. However, the punishments for mistreating alcohol are as strict as in any other state.
Can you buy growlers and other unsealed beer containers in Massachusetts?
One of the best ways to support smaller breweries is by taking home their beer in the form of growlers. Unfortunately, the laws surrounding growlers are often complicated. Some states outlaw them entirely.
Growlers are legal in two forms in Massachusetts. There are prefilled and refilled growlers. Refilled growlers have a few restrictions placed on them. They must be:
- Empty and clean
- Branded with the brewery’s logo or blank
- Can only be filled with beer made by the brewery
Although they can, some breweries won’t fill growlers. This could be because they favor sealed containers or just don’t want to deal with growlers.
Driving with an open container of alcohol can be a red flag for local police officers. In most all states it is illegal to have an open container within reach of the driver or passengers.
In Massachusetts, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle. Open containers must be placed in the trunk, behind the rearmost seat, or in a locked glove box.
The two exceptions are when the vehicle is either designed for commercial transportation or is the living area of a mobile home.
Driving with open containers of alcohol is such a red flag because of the dangers that come with drinking and driving. It is always illegal to drink when under the influence of alcohol.
Massachusetts defines an individual as under the influence differently depending on the age of the driver. Penalties and limits are different for those under 21 compared to those 21 and older.
Under 21 years old
Although there are times when individuals under 21 may drink legally, it is never legal for them to then drive.
The legal limit in Massachusetts for underage individuals is 0.02% BAC. The penalties for the first conviction can include:
- Alcohol education course
- Fine up to $5,000
- License suspension (180 days)
- Up to 2 ½ years jail time
21 years and older
Though the limits for those above the age of 21 are higher, the penalties are no less harsh.
The legal limit in Massachusetts for those 21 or older is 0.08% BAC. The penalties for the first conviction can include:
- Fine of at least $500 and up to $5,000
- Up to 2 ½ years jail time
- License suspension between 45 and 90 days.