The rules on carrying a firearm while consuming alcoholic beverages vary from state to state. Not only are there different blood-alcohol content regulations in each state, there are also differences in the types of establishment in which you’re allowed to carry.
Some states (e.g. Minnesota) allow carry in bars and restaurants that serve liquor, while others do not. A number of states, such as Florida, use some variation of the “51%” rule. What this means is that if the establishment obtains more than 50% of their income from alcoholic beverages, you may not enter while armed. You may have seen a “51” decal near the entrance of such a business.
Sometimes the rules are even more complicated, saying that if you are carrying a firearm, you may enter a “51%” establishment, but you must stay in the “food service” area and not sit in “the bar” portion. This gets even more complicated when the bar and food areas are not clearly separated.
Look, I’ve even heard those on “our side” say something like “guns and alcohol don’t mix” and I whole-heartedly agree. My hunting partners and I do not touch liquor until the guns are all unloaded and safely put away. And sure, over the years, I’ve come across some establishments that I wouldn’t set foot in, even if I were allowed to carry there!
However, the “51%” rules miss the larger point, which is that what really matters is whether or not someone is carrying a gun while intoxicated (like a DUI)—not where they happen to be sitting. Think about it: you could be at a “family” restaurant bar, having a burger and a diet soda, and just because you happened to be carrying a gun at the time, you’d be breaking the law.
But whatever your opinion of such laws, with the summer travel season fast approaching, it would be wise to acquaint yourself with the laws of any state you plan on visiting. Then follow them scrupulously, no matter how silly you might find them. Why ruin your vacation? As a “foreigner,” you are already a subject of greater scrutiny—those out-of-state plates on your car stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.
If You Are Carrying, Don’t Drink Alcohol
Beyond that, my advice to all of my carry class students is simple: regardless of what your home state, or any other state, says about guns and alcohol, if you are carrying, don’t drink. Does this mean you can’t stop off for a beer at happy hour? Of course not; just use common sense. Put the gun in the trunk of your car (or other safe storage area, depending on your vehicle) and leave it there until you get home.
After all, beyond the obvious issue of getting a citation (or worse, arrested) for violating the law, God forbid that you have to defend yourself after you’ve had a drink or two. When you get to court, the prosecutor will gleefully mention that fact to the jury—after first having a forensic pathologist testify that “even one drink can impair judgment” to some extent (which is true).
Because while it is technically possible to win a self-defense case even when you’ve been drinking, it makes it harder. Juries notoriously react negatively to defendants who’ve had even one drink. So why give that weapon to a prosecutor? Instead, do yourself a favor; take the issue off the table. If you carry, don’t drink. Period.