Missouri Alcohol Laws

Consuming beer, wine, and liquor can be an enjoyable social activity, but it comes with a set of requirements and responsibilities. Missouri has an entire state agency dedicated to the enforcement of laws that dictate how alcohol is sold, distributed, marketed and consumed.  To avoid prosecution and keep yourself and others safe, it’s important to understand and follow all local, state, and federal regulations.

Use our guide from attorney Gonzalo Fernandez to understand Missouri alcohol laws.

Missouri Liquor Licensing Laws

Do I need a license to sell alcohol in Missouri?

Yes. Missouri has a three tier distribution system which includes the manufacturer, the distributor and the retailer. A distributor is a wholesaler who buys product from a manufacturer and then sells it to a retailer who in turn sells it to the public.   A retailer can hold an on-premise license, which as the name implies allows them to sell alcohol to the public for consumption on premise such as a bar or restaurant, or an off premise license such as a supermarket or wine shop.  Each level of the three tier distribution system is required to have a license to sell and there are other laws that dictate how these tiers interact with each other and the public.  r

RSMO  311.050.

Will I also need a separate license to sell alcohol on Sundays?

Yes. Missouri also requires anyone selling or manufacturing intoxicating liquor who wishes to sell it on Sundays to apply for an additional license. 

What if I want to sell alcohol near a church or school?

In order to sell alcohol within 100 feet from a school or church, you must obtain approval in writing from the city’s board of aldermen, city council, or other proper authorities.  

RSMo 311.080.

Missouri Consumer Alcohol Laws

In addition to regulating how alcohol is manufactured, marketed and sold, Missouri also regulates how the public can use and consume alcohol. Some of the most frequent issues are addressed below.

Underage Drinking Laws

What’s the legal drinking age in Missouri?

Like all 50 states, you must be at least 21 years of age to purchase or consume alcohol in the state of Missouri.

Can I get in trouble for underage drinking?

Yes. Consuming alcohol while under the age of 21 is a misdemeanor that can result in a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year incarcerated.  It can also affect your ability to drive a car even if you are not charged with DWI.

What if I or someone else underage needs medical attention after drinking?

Missouri’s Good Samaritan Law provides legal protection or immunity for those actively seeking medical attention due to an alcohol or drug overdose. This allows people under the age of 21 to get the medical help they need without fear of prosecution.  

What’s the BAC for drinking and driving underage in Missouri?

Missouri has a “zero-tolerance” policy for drinking and driving – especially for those underage. A person under 21 operating a vehicle or motorcycle can be charged with a DWI if they have a BAC level above 0.02%.  For those over 21 years of age the presumed intoxication level is 0.8%.  However, this does not mean you can not be charged and prosecuted if your blood alcohol level is below 0.8%.  If the state feels you are impaired you can still be charged with driving while intoxicated. 0.8% is simply the BAC level at which a court will presume you are intoxicated. 

Can a minor drink alcohol with their parents?

Yes. Missouri law allows minors to consume alcohol if purchased by a parent or legal guardian and consumed on their private property.

Missouri Open Container Laws

Can I drink alcohol in public in Missouri?

Missouri law does not prohibit consuming alcohol in outdoor public places. However, it is illegal to consume alcohol in a church, school, or courthouse. Other local ordinances may apply.

Can I drink alcohol in a car in Missouri?

Missouri does not have a specific law that bans passengers from drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle. However, 31 cities across the state have put a ban in effect and you could be charged criminally for a municipal violation. 

Purchasing Alcohol in Missouri

Where can I buy alcohol in Missouri?

Unlike residents in the neighboring state of Kansas that has State run alcohol stores, Missourians can purchase alcohol at grocery stores, gas stations, and similar businesses that acquire the proper permit.

What time can I buy alcohol in Missouri?

Alcohol can be purchased from 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily. Municipalities across the state may have separate laws.

Can I buy alcohol on Sundays?

Yes, alcohol can be purchased on Sundays in Missouri.

New Alcohol Laws in Missouri

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, Missouri passed two laws impacting alcohol sales across the state:

  • In April 2020, Missouri temporarily allowed the sale of to-go cocktails to financially help bars in restaurants. Starting August 28, 2021, that law became permanent. Alcohol must be in a sealed, tamper-proof container.
  • Missouri also changed Sunday alcohol sales from 9 a.m. to midnight to 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Gonzalo Fernandez is a personal injury attorney based in St. Louis. In his prior life he worked as in-house counsel for Anheuser Busch and fought hard to make the world safe for beer.  He regularly uses his legal expertise to offer insight on events impacting Missourians. Recent media appearances include the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, CBS St. Louis, Fox 2, and KPLR 11. To speak to Gonzalo, call (314) 433-9131 or email gonz@stltriallawyers.com.