Alcohol laws of Massachusetts

Location of Massachusetts

The serving of alcohol in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is governed by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC), which is responsible for issuing licenses and permits for all manufacturers, wholesalers and importers, out-of-state suppliers, brokers, salespeople, warehouses, planes, trains, ships, ship chandlers and vehicles transporting alcoholic beverages.[1]

Drinking ageEdit

On December 4, 1984, Governor Michael S. Dukakis signed a bill raising the drinking age from 20 to 21 in Massachusetts. This bill was in response to the National Minimum Drinking Age Act which would reduce federal highway funding by 10% for any state that did not adopt a drinking age of 21.[2] Those under 21 can, however, consume alcoholic beverages provided by their parents or grandparents on private premises.[3]

Establishments accepting, in good faith, the following as proof of age are protected if underage patrons are served accidentally:[4]

  • A Massachusetts Driver’s License
  • A Massachusetts Liquor Identification Card
  • A Massachusetts Identification Card
  • A Passport Issued by the United States or a government that is officially recognized by the United States
  • A Passport Card for a Passport issued by the United States
  • A Military Identification Card

Transportation of alcoholEdit

Individuals can transport alcohol without a license, up to but not exceeding, twenty gallons of malt beverages, three gallons of any other alcoholic beverage, or one gallon of alcohol at a single time.[5] People under 21 years of age may not knowingly drive a car with alcohol inside unless they are accompanied by their legal guardian. This also means a person under the age of 21 cannot drive a vehicle with alcohol inside of the vehicle even if it belongs to a person over the age of 21 who is also inside the vehicle. Violators can be fined and/or have their driver's license suspended for three months.[6]

Drunk drivingEdit

Driving under the influence of alcohol in Massachusetts is a crime that is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. Massachusetts' maximum blood alcohol level is 0.08% and 0.02% if the driver is under 21 years of age.[7] Operating under the influence penalties can vary depending on prior OUI offenses.

Fine Jail Driver's License Suspension
1st Offense $500–$5,000 None - 2½ years 1 year
2nd Offense $1,000 - $10,000 30 days - 2½ years 2 years
3rd Offense (felony) $1,000 - $15,000 150 days - 5 years 8 years
4th Offense (felony) $1,500 - $25,000 1 – 5 years 10 years
5th Offense (felony) $20,000 - $50,000 2 – 5 years Lifetime


Happy Hour banEdit

Bars and restaurants in Massachusetts are prohibited from offering discounts on alcoholic beverages; this includes a total ban on happy hour promotions. Establishments are not permitted to offer a drink special for a short time, even for a day; prices must remain the same throughout the calendar week.[8]

The ban on happy hour promotions came into effect in December 1984, following a series of happy hour-related drunk driving crashes, as part of a broader push to reduce drunk driving. It was supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and state officials, including Governor Michael Dukakis.[9][10] Multiple attempts to repeal the ban have failed.[11]

Social Host LawEdit

The host of a party can be held liable for a guest who causes injury to others if it is proved that the host knew or should have known that the guest was intoxicated but continued to allow the guest to drink alcoholic beverages.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Alcoholic Beverages License General Information". Alcoholic Beverages ControL Commission. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  2. ^ "Bill to Set Drinking Age at 21 In Massachusetts Is Signed". New York Times. Associated Press. 4 December 1984. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  3. ^ The exemption for furnishing is found in 138 M.G.L. Sec. 34. The exemption for minor possession is found in 138 M.G.L. Sec. 34C. There is no separate explicit prohibition of minor consumption or of internal possession.
  4. ^ "Massachusetts Identity Card as Acceptable Proof of Age for Alcoholic Beverages Purchase" (PDF). Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 4 September 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  5. ^ "MGL Chapter 138 Section 22: Transportation of alcoholic beverages; permits; fees; railroads or vessels; trucking businesses; production of permit upon demand". The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Underage Alcohol Violations". MassDOT. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b Massachusetts Drunk Driving Law Center
  8. ^ Lorizio, Jean M. (November 18, 2019). "Compliance issues during this holiday season". Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  9. ^ Campbell, Colin (December 11, 1984). "'Happy Hour' Ban Starts In Massachusetts Bars". The New York Times. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  10. ^ Metzger, Andy (October 25, 2011). "Dukakis recalls happy-hour ban, guarantees more deaths if it's reinstated". Wicked Local. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  11. ^ Quinn, Garrett (July 16, 2015). "Why Is Happy Hour Still Illegal in Massachusetts?". Boston. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  12. ^ "The Social Host Law". Essex District Attorney's Office. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 23 July 2017.