10 Surprising Places You Can Buy Alcohol

When most people want to toss back a cold one, they head to a nearby bar or liquor store. But increasingly, consumers can buy booze in some unconventional locales — even hospitals. Starbucks announced this week that it will start selling beer and wine in the evenings in thousands of its stores, which the company says should help boost sales. But the coffee giant is hardly alone.


You can already get booze with your pills — drugstores like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid sell alcohol — but some take it one step further. At four Duane Reade drugstores in New York City, consumers will find a “growler bar” (for all you non-hipsters out there, a growler is a container for beer) where customers can fill up with the likes of Kelso, Peak Organic IPA, and SixPoint. Paul Tiberio, divisional vice president of regional procurement for parent company Walgreens, says the concept was born from talking to consumers in its New York stores. “Feedback in certain market locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn came back for us to consider selling fresh brewed beer for our regular consumers,” he says. A word of warning: Don’t mix the booze with your meds.


Some hospitals do let family members and friends — and sometimes even patients — buy alcohol at the hospital, says Angelo Mojica, a board member for the Association for Healthcare Foodservice. Mojica says that he has seen guests in the VIP wing of one hospital get the option of cocktails, beer and wine and that some long-term-care patients, with the permission of their doctor, can opt for a beer at dinner. But he adds that hospitals serving alcohol are rare, and that public hospitals are unlikely to be among those that do.

The Drive-Through

In a handful of cities, you don’t even need to leave your car to stock up on booze, as some restaurants and stores let you order alcohol at the drive-through. The W Grill to Go in Houston sells to-go margaritas at its drive-thru, though it’s much more common for stores to let you buy packaged beer and wine. At the Dairy Barn — a chain of convenience stores — you can buy beer at the pickup window, and stores like Ginger’s Drive Through Liquor in Boulder have a more extensive alcohol menu. However, a number of states ban these kinds of establishments and some municipalities, like Rantoul, Ill., have banned them in the past few years.

Hair and Nail Salons

Manis and martinis anyone? Many hair and nail salons now offer guests cocktails to go with their services. At Fluff Bar in Denver , for example, guests can get a blowout, up do, and cut and color with their choice of a fluff mopolitan (a cosmo), skinny fluffarita (a margarita) and a lemon fluffdrop (a lemondrop), as well as a handful of champagnes and wines. And at Sweet Lily in New York City, you can get manicures and pedicures while you enjoy white wine (after 4 p.m.) or Prosecco on special occasions like Valentine’s Day. Some salons do this legally (with a liquor license) and some do it under the table, though that comes with risks.

Vending machines

Some consumers on cruise ships, in hotels and at grocery stores may have noticed a new kind of vending machine: one that serves glasses of both red and white wine. Napa Technology makes a wine dispensing system in which consumers insert a card pre-loaded with money (the business may check your ID before letting you buy the card) into the machine to buy a glass of wine. The card remembers your wine preferences and keeps track of what you’ve purchased. Jayne Portnoy, the vice president of marketing and brand strategy for the company, says the machine helps wine stay fresh for 60 days, as the containers holding the wine bottles are temperature controlled and don’t allow oxidation or contamination.

Fast-Food Restaurants

Nearly every Chipotle aficionado knows they can score a beer (or margarita) with their burrito — but a number of more surprising fast food stores also sell booze. You can throw down some beer with your burger at Burger King locations in Las Vegas, Miami and Fort Bliss, Texas. And Sonic serves beer at four stores in Florida, though these are concept stores and aren’t structured like its typical drive-in shops. “The longer an individual remains in a restaurant, the larger the bill is likely to be,” explains IBISWorld analyst Vanessa Giraldo. “Comparable to restaurants that offer Wi-Fi, serving alcohol is likely to increase the amount of time customers spend in a restaurant, leading to an increase in sales.”

Chain Clothing Stores

Last month, hip clothing retailer Urban Outfitters scored a liquor license for its Williamsburg, Brooklyn outpost — and it’s not the only chain store hoping to get shoppers a little tipsy. The high-end department store Barney’s has a cafe — called Fred’s at Barney’s — built into its New York City store that serves pricey cocktails like the Fred’s Ruby Red, a mix of vodka, aperol and blood orange juice, as well as the Parisian Rain, a mix of Prosecco, aperol and sugar cubes. And luxury Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman offers a similar experience, serving up a selection of wines and champagnes by the glass.

Bridal Salons

As any bride knows, finding your wedding dress can be one of the most stressful experiences of planning a wedding. That’s why some bridal salons offer brides-to-be and their maids and families a way to take the edge off, often with a glass of bubbly. The White Dress By the Shore store in Connecticut posted an apparent review on its homepage that says “I was treated like royalty. They even served champagne as I tried on gowns! ”. Indeed, Giraldo says that the reason bridal shops offer alcohol is to give consumers a “more pleasurable experience” and to help stores “differentiate themselves from the competition” — both of which can drive sales.

Funeral Parlors

Booze and funerals are no strangers to one another, but some funeral parlors are taking the association to a new level. Hodges Funeral Home in Naples, Fla., recently opened an on-site wine cellar , which the home’s general manager told a local TV station he thinks is the first in the country. “They still want to have a party, still want to celebrate and have the means to mourn their loved ones…but they don’t want to do it over a person’s body,” Minso told the network. “For the younger generations, that’s become such an old-fashioned idea.”

Coffee Shops

As part of an effort to boost evening sales, Starbucks announced this week that it would start selling beer and wine in thousands of stores over the next several years; the retailer had already been testing this concept in about 26 of its stores, including some in Seattle and Chicago. Starbucks is in good company, as a handful of coffee shops in New York, Los Angeles and other locales also serve such drinks to their clientele. And their goal is likely similar to that of Starbucks: to boost sales during a time of day when traffic to the stores tends to thin out.

by Catey Hill