While our legal system in the US is one to be respected, there are still a few strange laws that slip through the cracks. You may go your entire life without encountering a weird law, or you could be slapped with a penalty for an unknown violation.

Depending on where you live, your favorite restaurant could be affected by a wacky local law, like:

  1. Don’t get drunk in a bar. Although this seems like an oxymoron, Texas makes it legal for police officers to arrest a person anywhere for public intoxication, including in a restaurant or bar. Unfortunately, unethical cops can use this law to profile minorities to make undocumented immigrant arrests, defeating the true purpose of the law in the first place.
  2. Don’t take your lunch to go. In Riverside, California, you’re not allowed to carry your lunch down the street from 11 AM to 1 PM. For whatever reason, this law encourages busy workers to sit down and eat their lunches in a restaurant or else risk a penalty.
  3. Don’t take your wine with you. In many states, it’s now perfectly legal to re-cork a bottle of wine and take it with you if you can’t finish it. This helps to prevent the unfortunate offense of overindulging and drinking and driving. However, in Mississippi, re-corking isn’t permitted under any circumstance; wine must be finished or left at the table.
  4. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. In the state of Utah, it’s illegal to serve a restaurant patron a drink without them ordering food. Of course, Utah also deems it illegal to advertise drink specials in a restaurant or bar, making the practice of going out for a few cocktails very difficult indeed.
  5. Don’t eat without a security guard. Although eating in a restaurant may seem like an innocent enough task, a city council ordinance was proposed in Newark, New Jersey, to require restaurants that serve 15 or fewer people and stay open later than 9 PM to hire armed security guards. Fortunately, this strange proposal was overturned by the mayor.


While most of these bizarre dining laws probably won’t affect you the next time you eat at a restaurant, it helps to understand the ins and outs of local rulings to prevent a potential violation. Once you become comfortable with state laws in your area, you can rest easy when you dine out with family and friends.