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Can You Buy Alcohol on Your 21st Birthday?

Charl Joost
Last Updated: February 23rd, 2023

So, when you wake up on the morning of your 21st birthday (congratulations, by the way), you open your eyes and think to yourself, can I now do what I’ve been doing for the past few years but legally? Can I simply walk into a liquor store (stress-free) and buy a beer?

As the date changes to that of your 21st birthday, you can legally purchase alcohol. But, before you become too enthusiastic, remember that not every bar or liquor store will allow you to enter or sell to you once the clock strikes 12 and your ID transforms into a mystical permit certificate.

Perhaps you’re thrilled to be using your real ID for the very first time when entering a bar, or maybe you simply want to be able to boast that you purchased your first beer from the gas station.

Either way, here’s a quick breakdown that answers “can you buy alcohol on your 21st birthday?” and what you should anticipate when buying beer and other liquor for the first time.

You Can Buy Alcohol When the Clock Strikes 12

alcohol at 21

You can start drinking on your 21st birthday at 00:00. You are legally allowed to buy alcohol on your 21st birthday, so if your birthday is October 3rd, and it’s October 2nd, you can buy a bottle of celebratory champagne at midnight. There’s no more a need to sneak around in the dark corners of a bar like a criminal.

Remember that private places might very well create their own rules to safeguard themselves. This is how the long-held illusion that you must be 21 years and one day old to buy liquor originated.

While this is not true from a governmental standpoint, several other privately run bars or liquor stores may refuse you until the following day, and they have the lawful right to take this action. However, most are likely to sell you what you want.

Additionally, some states don’t allow you to purchase alcohol before 1 pm, so if your 21st birthday falls on a Sunday, you may have to be slightly more patient for that ice-cold Budweiser.

It’s Legal to Drink Alcohol in All 50 US States Once You’re 21 Years Old

legal to drink alcohol

It’s legal to drink alcohol in all 50 states once you’re 21. That’s the highest legal drinking requirement in American history.

Before the 1980s, the legal drinking age varied between 18 and 20 years, depending on the state. Then, President Ronald Regan signed the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act.

If states voted against raising the drinking age to 21, their transportation funds would be reduced by 10%. Therefore all the states complied with the federal government’s request. As a result, the national drinking age of 21 was established.

It is vital to remember that even though the drinking age is 21 in every state, how you can get alcohol legally varies depending on where you live.

In some states, getting your ID and buying alcohol is as easy as going into a liquor store and showing them your license or passport, proving that you’re over 21 years old. Others have stricter laws about who can buy what kind of alcohol and when.

There’s Always an Exception to the Rule

Some states have exceptions to the law: In some places, you can drink if you’re younger than 21, if you’re a military member, or if you’re drinking with your parents or a guardian.

For example, Colorado allows people aged 18 to 20 to consume alcohol if they are accompanied by a legal guardian over 21 years or serving as part of their duties in the US Armed Forces.

Alcohol sellers also don’t check IDs as well as they should. In a study published in 2017 in Preventative Medicine Reports, researchers looked at more than 5 million alcohol sales transactions before and after 13 states raised their minimum legal drinking ages from 17 to 19.

They found that around 50 percent of the time, ID was checked for buyers between 17 and 20 years old – but only about 5 percent of ID checks were appropriately conducted.

Can You Buy Alcohol on Your 21st Birthday – Conclusion

You can buy alcohol on your 21st birthday, but not everywhere. You are not above the rules of private bars and liquor stores or the federal or state drinking limit laws.

The great news is that there is plenty of ways for you to celebrate this special occasion! But remember to consume alcohol in a safe environment, do not operate cars or heavy machinery while under the influence, and drink responsibly.

About The Author

Charl Joost

Charl is a trainer, public speaker, and professional writer. While he has been coached to niche down, he has many passions. These include golf, gardening, technology, and a decent cup of coffee or two. Charl loves to learn about new products and tries everything he writes about.

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