DC Liquor Drinking Laws and Regulations

What You Need to Know About Legal Alcohol Consumption in DC

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It is illegal in every state in America for persons under the age of 21 to purchase and publicly possess alcoholic beverages. The hours that alcohol may be purchased or served, and other laws related to liquor consumption vary from state to state. It is a good idea to know the local drinking laws before you head out for a night on the town. Here is an overview of DC's Liquor Laws.

  • Liquor can be served by a licensed business from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Monday - Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. – 2 a.m. on Sundays. The day before a federal holiday, alcohol may be served from 8 a.m. – 3 a.m. On January 1 (New Year's Eve), liquor may be served from 8 a.m. – 4 a.m.
  • Off-premises retailers, such as grocery and other stores, may sell liquor from 9 am – 10 pm daily.
  • A person must be at least 18 years old to serve or sell alcoholic beverages and at least 21 years old to be a bartender.
  • A customer must produce valid I.D. if asked by the establishment to show it in order to be served alcohol.
  • It is illegal to use a fake I.D. to purchase liquor. An underage person who tries to buy liquor with a fake I.D. could be subject to a fine and have driving privileges suspended.
  • It is illegal to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage in public space that is not part of an ABC-licensed establishment. An individual who breaks this law can be prosecuted and punished by a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail.
  • The Distillery Pub Licensure Act of 2013 permits licensed businesses to sell the liquor they produce for consumption both on or off the premises between the hours of 7 a.m. and midnight. Liquor intended for off-premise consumption must be sold in sealed containers.
  • The Manufacturers' Sunday Sale Act of 2013 allows manufacturers to sell and deliver alcoholic beverages from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Previously, the sale of alcohol to wholesalers, retailers and consumers was prohibited on Sundays.
  • The Manufacturer Tasting Permit Act of 2013 allows an alcoholic beverage manufacturer to conduct tastings (with a special permit) seven days a week, from 1 to 9 p.m. Previously, tastings were only allowed Thursday through Saturday.
  • Pub crawls in the District of Columbia are required to obtain an alcoholic beverage license if the event includes more than 200 people.
  • A festival license is issued for an event that spans 5-15 days and includes the performance of a sports, cultural or tourism-related activity. The license temporarily permits the sale, service and consumption of alcoholic beverages at a specific event location. 

If you are interested in obtaining a DC Liquor License, you can find all the requirements, types of liquor licenses available, and the forms for application at the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration website.

For suggestions of where to enjoy a night out including the best happy hours, beer and breweries, rooftop bars, sports bars, dance clubs and more, see A Guide to Washington DC Bars and Nightlife