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Spot the underage drinker

I’ve gotten used to being asked for my ID now. Hell, I’ve even gotten used to saying “gotten”, but I still can’t getten over some of the other oddities they have here.

My favourite tipple on a hot summers day or at a party is a nice shot of Southern Comfort (‘SoCo’ as I’ve seen it called here) with lemonade. Oh, I’m sorry – make that a Sprite, because lemonade is something completely different here.

(Actually, that’s a bit of a lie because on a nice hot summers day what I’d really like is a glass of Pimms and lemonade, but I absolutely have not seen Pimms for sale anywhere – I don’t think they know what it is.)

Package StoreAnyway … to accompany the crazy licensing laws [1](e.g. 21 minimum age limit, not 18) they also have crazy laws governing where you can buy spirits liquor in the first place.

Back home, you just roll up to your grocery store and it’s in an aisle all by itself – not so here.

Yes you can buy cheap strength beers at the store, but for the hard stuff (16% and over) you have to go to a package store – otherwise known as a ‘Red Dot‘ store. Why? Because they have red dots dotted all over the front of them as if measles is the new wood worm.

We went to this cute one just off of Highway 17 last week .. inside it was musty, dusty and service was from an old bloke who I can only say was ‘crusty’. Surely this was just because we were on an out of town in-the-country type of place? Surely the ones back in the main city would be more modern?

Uh hu .. when I then looked up where the nearest Red Dot place was to me at the weekend, I realised it was just one diagonal block away, and it was just as dank.

It had bars on the window – rusty, and inside it was like a bank back home – A reinforced glass partition was up at the counter seperating me and the alcohol teasingly placed just out my failing thirty-something eyesight range on a backshelf. So I can’t see if they’ve got a particular brand of tequilla (Jose Cuervo) or not that Leigh has asked me to get. I can make out three sizes of bottles of SoCo though, so I’m sorted.

I place my order to the biiiiig woman behind the counter. And I get my liquor – handed to me in a brown paper bag, in exchange for some identical looking tatty dollar bills, and I scurry off home feeling like I’ve just left a sex shop or some other seedy place, and not just bought a bottle of alcohol.


[1] Note – SC laws only for ‘Red Dot’/Package stores. In North Carolina they’re called “ABC Stores”. In California you can buy spirits in the grocery store. Every state is different.

25 responses to “Spot the underage drinker”

  1. geofftech says:

    Side thought: My friend Chris will be 20 when he visits New York next summer, and will be gasping for a drink. Anyone got any suggestions on how he can keep himself lubricated?

  2. Imabug says:

    There’s a much nicer one of those ‘red dot’ stores (I’ve also seen them referred to as party stores) staffed by friendlier people over on James Island. It’s on Folly Road over in the strip mall where the Walgreen’s is. I’ve been there on a couple of occasions and have always had a good experience.

  3. Rhys says:

    In New Hampshire, we have giant rest areas on either side of the highway. The buildings are about the size of a grocery store and sell just alcohol. (They’re also open 7 days a week for very long hours and are located just on the other side of the Massachusetts border so that we can get the revenue from all the people who drive over the border to buy liquor – buying alcohol in MA is very irritating as it’s not available in grocery stores at all and I’ve yet to figure out where or what hours the places that do sell it are open.)

    By the way, I’m a friend/acquaintence of Chris who along with his finacee Meg, I’m informed you met recently.

  4. Brent says:

    Ah the wonderful liquor laws of SC…they are more ridiculous than anywhere else in the US. At least you missed the days when restuarants could only serve “hard liquor” from mini (1.5 oz, or a shot and a half) bottles. SC was the last state in the country to serve from mini bottles, finally ending in September 2005. Serving liquor like this caused a very odd way to order drinks. Say you wanted 4 SoCo & lime shots for you and 3 mates. You would have to order it like “2 Soco & lime split 4 ways.” This would give you 2 mini bottles (3 oz) of SoCo split over 4 drinks. This differs from “large pour” bottle drink ordering where you would just say “I want 4 SoCo & lime” and you’d get 4 drinks each with 1 oz (or 1 shot) of SoCo in each drink. So ridiculous, right? Most people in SC still don’t know how to “properly” order drinks with the large bottles.

    As for the Red Dot stores, here in Columbia, the main liquor store is Green’s Discount Beverage. Green’s stores are well light and very nice with everything an alcoholic could desire. 🙂

    In Ohio, all the major liquor stores are overseen by the State Liquor Agency. There are even drive through liquor stores in Ohio (which everyone in the south seems to believe that its a “south only” idea – to which I say “HA!” – northerners like to get skunked just as much as anyone else :)).

  5. Paul says:

    Geoff …KY? Not Kentucky … the other stuff! :-p

  6. Skarlett says:

    ABC likely stands for Alcohol Beverage Commision-
    They regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol in many states.

    When I last lived in Texas you could not buy alcohol (spirits, beer, wine) after midnight from a store, and you could not buy spirits on Sunday – but then they have these DRIVE THRU beer barns.

    Buildings that look like barns, with big garage doors open on both ends. You drive in, place your order, and they bring it to your car.

  7. You live in a RED STATE Geoff. Red states like to regulate all sorts of moral activities for your own good doncha know.

    Hawaii and California are not regulated at all this way. I don’t think most blue states are. Some states like Utah are completely dry (I believe) as there is a high population of Mormans there who don’t drink.

    They have to card you if you look 30 or younger and you do look about 30.

  8. Fimb says:

    The off license on the corner of my friends road is like that.. everything and the person behind glass, and you have to shout your order through! But then, if I lived in that road, I’d want security like that *L*

  9. geofftech says:

    #8 – Well now you see, this throws up an interesting point. The road where I live is kind of “on the cusp” of a less desirable part of Charleston. There are many derogatory terms for this area – none which I’ll repeat here – but Leigh just pointed out to me, that the package store that I went to was indeed located in such an area. There must be nicer ones around…

  10. Richard says:

    You could ask the woman at the red dot store for some tips about putting on weight the next time you’re there.

  11. Jeff says:

    Where are you going back to england?

  12. Chz says:

    Ah, you raise a good point – Pimm’s is one of the few British things that I’ve *NEVER* seen anywhere in Canada or the States.

  13. pj says:

    Pimms: Make your own! Just to annoy you our local Tesco has a whole fridge full of Pimms 🙂

    Liquor: Funny how alcohol seems to be such a naughty thing in America. The country of “anything goes” and “freedom of speech” and yet you have to go to a pseudo sex shop to buy a bottle of Whiskey which then comes in a brown bag. Surely not one of Americas greatest features.

    General: Enjoying reading about the continuing exploits over the pond. Any plans to travel out of the local area?

  14. […] I was reading Lowcountry Blogroll this morning and saw this post and absolutely lost it. Geoff recently immigrated to Charleston from England and went to the ABC package store to try to get some Southern Comfort. In the end…well, you just have to read it. It’s a great, great perspective and not only makes you laugh but also makes you think about American attitudes toward alcohol that they simply don’t share east of the Atlantic. Technorati Tags: alcohol, perspective, abc package store […]

  15. Andrew says:

    Geoff gets first comment on BBC News/iTrip story:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/5197716.stm

  16. Do they not have google in charleston yet?

    http://www.beerliquors.com/buy/liquors/pimms.htm

    Although why you’d want to drink something that looks and tastes like a horticultural accident when you could have a beer is beyond me. Southern Comfort is a bit, well, girlie too, isn’t it?

    (Yes, I know, diffrent strokes for differnt folks and all)

  17. geofftech says:

    #15 – Well I *am* Mr. iPod (Along with Mr Tube, Mr Fox’s Biscuits, etc.. etc..)

  18. Marco says:

    Hey,
    What’s with all the searching for UK related food items??? Its time to integrate into the American Way. Weren’t you the one always telling me to integrate and do things the English way in London like untucking my shirt 🙂 Good to see you’re settling in.

  19. jen says:

    Re: lemonade

    If you have a Whole Foods out your way, go look for the store brand (has a little four color square logo on it, almost like the Windows logo) version of “Italian Soda”, lemon variety. It’s pretty close to Schweppes Lemon, and excellent for mixing.

  20. leslie says:

    In Texas you can buy hard alcohol (in non-dry counties) from 10 am to 9 pm monday through Saturday, only in liquor stores (as an English friend says, “Liquor, honey? Hell no, I don’t even know her!”). Beer and wine can be sold in a supermarket from about 7 a.m. to midnight (1 a.m. on Saturday), and noon to midnight on Sundays. In a pub/restaurant it can be sold from sometime in the morning till 2 a.m. (all drinks picked up at 2:15). Before noon on Sunday alcohol can only be purchased with a meal. Ridiculous!
    My friend who went to Vanderbilt Uni told me that in Nashville, you’re not allowed to buy both beer and wine at the same time. She and her now-husband had to go to two seperate shops.

  21. Kirk says:

    Has anyone else seen the incredibly annoying, very poorly made “SoCo” cinema ad? I suppose it’s on TV too, but it’s so bad…

  22. Matthew West says:

    One of the nice things about being on a military base is that they sell alcohol in the Base Exchange until 11pm and it doesn’t have any tax on it…

    I remember blue laws on sunday back home were fun too. Back at Lander, we didn’t think about the super bowl falling on sunday, and someone forgot to get the beer…

  23. Tardis Tina says:

    Just back from a quick visit to Krakow, Poland, where all booze is sold in stores called ‘ALKOHOLE’. Our local one was opened 24hrs a day, looked seedy from the outside, but sold soft drinks, sweets, tobacco and cakes as well!

  24. Babbie says:

    FYI-The red dot is left over from the Middle Ages (just like barber poles, etc.). We don’t change much around here, worshiping our ancestors and all. This way if you can’t read, you can recognize the red dot. Think things are too regulated now? Once upon a time there was no LEGAL liquor by the drink in Charleston County, and that was in the second half of the twentieth century. Referendums would be held; all the Baptists, Methodists, etc., would vote against changing the law & then go down to the “bar” and have a drink on it. There was no legal drinking age. Did you have money was the criteria. Ahh, for the good old days.

  25. Amy says:

    Here in Canada up until about 5 years ago, all liquor could only be purchased at a government run Liquor Store (talk about a monopoly). Now we are able to purchase liquor from “Beer and Wine Stores” which in the past few years were enabled to sell the hard liquors too. Much more accessible now as the Liquor Stores still observe all Statutory Holidays and are not open on Sundays.

    I always find it amusing to visit Washington State and see beer and wine in almost every corner store, gas station and grocery store. Nevermind the prices are so obscenely low, makes me wonder why most Americans are not raving drunks!

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