While the legal drinking age of 21 for the United States is a federally-mandated regulation, there are many laws concerning liquor and alcoholic beverages that differ in Nevada from elsewhere in America. New arrivals in Reno or Las Vegas might find that Nevada liquor laws are much more relaxed than what they're used to seeing back home.
Most notably, there are no legally mandated closing hours or days for establishments serving alcoholic drinks, and there are no days or hours during which a store may not sell liquor. Alcohol can be purchased 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any licensed Nevada business.
Another great thing about the entire state of Nevada is that state laws deem public intoxication legal and prohibits county or city ordinances from making it a public offense. However, there are still exceptions to this including when operating a motor vehicle or if intoxication is part of any criminal activity.
Important Alcohol Laws and Regulations
The United States federal government has many laws and regulations controlling the sell, purchase, ownership, and consumption of liquor and alcoholic beverages, but leaves a lot of the regulations concerning public use to individual states. As a result, Nevada has developed the following rules governing liquor:
- It is illegal for parents or other adults to allow underage drinking or provide minors (under the age of 21) with alcohol.
- Public intoxication is legal with the exceptions for intoxication involved in civil or criminal offenses like a DUI. Some cities, however, make it illegal to give alcohol to someone already intoxicated.
- Minors are not permitted in areas of business where liquor is sold, served, or given away—including in hotels, casinos, and bars—unless they are employees of the establishment that follow mandated employment regulations regarding this.
- Minors cannot enter stand-alone saloons, bars, or taverns where the primary business is alcohol service, and IDs are required to get into any of these establishments regardless of age.
- It is a misdemeanor to possess or use a fake ID showing the bearer to be 21 or older and a gross misdemeanor to provide a fake ID to another person, regardless of age.
- The legal Driving Under the Influence (DUI) limit for all Nevada drivers is .08 blood alcohol concentration or above. If a test shows a person under 21 stopped for suspicion of DUI has a blood alcohol concentration of more than .02 but less than .08, their license or driving permit must be suspended for 90 days.
If you're planning to visit Nevada, you should familiarize yourself with these rules. However, if you plan to travel to other states during your trip, you'll also want to familiarize yourself with the laws governing alcohol in Nevada's neighboring states and keep in mind that transporting liquor over state lines may be illegal.
Neighboring States' Laws and Regulations
Many of Nevada's larger cities are positioned near the border of other states, with some city limits even stretching across two states at once, meaning you'll have to know more than one states' law regarding liquor before you travel.
For instance, Lake Tahoe—one of the biggest tourist destinations in the state outside of Reno and Vegas—is located on the border of California. On the California side of Lake Tahoe, alcohol laws are different. The legal age to drink is still 21, but alcohol sales at bars and stores are prohibited between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m., meaning you'll get the "last call" notice from bartenders, which doesn't happen in Nevada.
On the other hand, Nevada's eastern neighbor Utah has much stricter laws; in fact, until 2009 you had to get a membership to a private club to even purchase liquor or wine in the state. Additionally, public intoxication is illegal in Utah, and liquor taxes are much higher in this state.