7 Bizarre Laws (That Are Actually Enforced)


Outdated and odd statutes and ordinances are common in every state and often act as a history lesson: at some point, it made sense to prohibit anyone from playing pinball in Oakland, California. Some local laws, however, are not only strange but regularly enforced. Expect fines, a stern lecture or worse if you should ever attempt to.

1. Enjoy an alcoholic drink while standing (Woburn, Mass.)

Woburn simply will not tolerate vertical intoxication. According to the city’s License Commission [PDF], no restaurant is allowed to serve an alcoholic beverage to a person who isn’t seated; patrons are not permitted to carry booze or consume it unless they’re firmly rooted to a chair. Exceptions are made for businesses that are granted a special "Approved Standing License."

2. Buy a car or t-shirt on Sundays (Penn., Bergen County, N.J.)

So-called “Blue Laws,” a remnant of Puritan oversight, remain on the books in several states. Pennsylvania and other states prohibit the sales of motor vehicles on Sundays unless it’s a private transaction. (Shoppers can and do enjoy browsing in salesperson-free lots.) In Bergen County, New Jersey, the retail sale of books, clothes, furniture, and housewares is against the law. Try to score some socks and you might get slapped with a $250 fine [PDF].

3. Open a chain restaurant (Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.)

The oceanside city of Carmel-by-the-Sea—best known for Clint Eastwood’s mayoral stint in the 1980s—has cultivated a reputation for strange ordinances. Until Eastwood had it repealed, it was illegal to sell ice cream on public streets; high heels over two inches are prohibited, though that law isn’t enforced. But if you wanted to build a franchise empire there, you’re out of luck: the city doesn’t allow chain businesses within its one-mile radius, preferring visitors frequent one of the locally-owned storefronts.   

4. Pick up trash too early (Sandy Springs, Ga.)

The wheezing, clunky sound of garbage collection is a necessary evil—but lawmakers in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs were so annoyed with it that they declared any attempt to collect trash before 7 a.m. a violation of the city’s noise ordinance. CNN reported sanitation worker Kevin McGill started his route at 5 a.m. last March and was quickly slapped with a 30-day jail sentence. (He wound up serving two weekends.)

5. Get drunk in a bar (Alaska)

Places where it’s not OK to be drunk: day care centers, operating rooms, shooting range. Places where getting drunk is encouraged: bars, weddings, school plays. Unfortunately for adult-beverage enthusiasts, Alaska isn’t on board. In 2012, the state sent undercover police to locate and arrest people who were publicly intoxicated in bars. Anchorage police told ABC News that officers target “drunk-plus” lushes, not just people “out having a good time.” Bartenders can also be penalized for serving to an overly-liquored patron.  

6. Own pet ducks (West Lafayette, Ohio)

The village of West Lafayette got its feathers ruffled when Iraq War veteran Darin Welker insisted on keeping over a dozen pet ducks at his residence. Welker claimed the animals helped him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder; CBS News reported some of them would occasionally take up residence on his recliner. Welker paid $50 for the minor misdemeanor of keeping farm animals within village limits.

7. Dangle fake testicles from your truck (Bonneau, S.C.)

Owing to a South Carolina law that prohibits obscene or indecent bumper stickers, 65-year-old Virginia Tice was ticketed $445 for sporting a pair of plastic testicles that hung from her vehicle’s trailer hitch. According to the Post and Courier, Tice declined to pay and requested a jury trial. If only Oakland's pinball enthusiasts had been as determined.

Bibo Barmaid
Bibo Barmaid Is Like a Keurig for Cocktails—and You Can Buy It Now
Bibo Barmaid
Bibo Barmaid

To make great-tasting cocktails at home, you could take a bartending class, or you could just buy a fancy gadget that does all the work for you. Imbibers interested in the hands-off approach should check out Bibo Barmaid, a cocktail maker that works like a Keurig machine for booze.

According to Supercall, all you need to turn the Bibo Barmaid system into your personal mixologist is a pouch of liquor and a pouch of cocktail flavoring. Bibo's liquor options include vodka, whiskey, rum, and agave spirit (think tequila), which can be paired with flavors like cucumber melon, rum punch, appletini, margarita, tangerine paloma, and mai tai.

After choosing your liquor and flavor packets, insert them into the machine, press the button, and watch as it dilutes the mixture and pours a perfect single portion of your favorite drink into your glass—no muddlers or bar spoons required.

Making cocktails at home usually means investing in a lot of equipment and ingredients, which isn't always worth it if you're preparing a drink for just yourself or you and a friend. With Bibo, whipping up a cocktail isn't much harder than pouring yourself a glass of wine.

Bibo Barmaid is now available on Amazon for $240, and cocktail mixes are available on Bibo's website starting at $35 for 18 pouches. The company is working on rolling out its liquor pouches in liquor stores and other alcohol retailers across the U.S.

[h/t Supercall]

Is There Any Point in Letting Red Wine Breathe?

by Aliya Whiteley

At the end of a long day, few things beat simple pleasures like watching a good film, eating a bar of chocolate the size of your head, or drinking a big glass of red wine.

By this point in the evening, most people don’t want to be told that they need to uncork the bottle and let the wine sit for at least 30 minutes before it becomes pleasantly drinkable. Yet that's (by the letter of the unwritten law) what you're supposed to do.

But why? Well, let's start with the assorted historical reasons.

Red wine has been around since the Stone Age. In fact, in 2011 a cave was uncovered in Armenia where the remains of a wine press, drinking and fermentation vessels, and withered grape vines were uncovered; the remains were dated at 5500 years old. Early winemaking often had a ritualistic aspect: Wine jars were found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, and wine appears in both the Hebrew and Christian bibles.

The concept of letting wine "breathe" is, historically speaking, relatively new and probably has its roots in the way wine was once bottled and stored.

Traditionally, sulfur is added to wine in order to preserve it for longer, and if too much is added the wine might well have an ... interesting aroma when first opened—the kind of "interesting aroma" that bears more than a passing resemblance to rotten eggs. Contact with the air may have helped to remove the smell, so decanting wine may once have been a way of removing unwelcome odors, as well as getting rid of the sediment that built up in the bottom of bottles.

It’s also possible that the concept springs from the early 1860s, when Emperor Napoleon III asked Louis Pasteur to investigate why so much French wine was spoiling in transit. Pasteur published his results, which concluded that wine coming into contact with air led to the growth of bacteria, thus ruining the vino. However, small amounts of air improved the flavor of the wine by "aging" it. In bottles, with a cork stopper, the wine still came into contact with a small amount of oxygen, and by storing it for years the wine was thought to develop a deeper flavor.

However, how much of that actually matters today?

Many experts agree that there is no point in simply pulling out the cork and letting the wine sit in an open bottle for any period of time; the wine won’t come into enough contact with oxygen to make any difference to the taste.

However, decanting wine might still be a useful activity. The truth is this: It entirely depends on the wine.

Nowadays we don’t really age wine anymore; we make it with the aim of drinking it quickly, within a year or so. But some types of wine that are rich in tannins (compounds that come from the grape skins and seeds) can benefit from a period of time in a decanter, to soften the astringent taste. These include wines from Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, for instance.

If you really want to know if a particular wine would benefit from being given time to breathe, try your own experiment at home. Buy two bottles, decant one, and let it breathe for an hour. Do you notice a difference in the taste? Even if you don’t, it's an experiment that justifies opening two bottles of wine.

One word of warning: No matter where a wine comes from, it is possible to overexpose it to oxygen. So remember Pasteur’s experiments and don’t leave your wine out of the bottle for days. That, friends, would be one hell of a waste.

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