Am I required to use a paper bag when leaving a liquor store?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Am I required to use a paper bag when leaving a liquor store?

—Sean, New York

Dear Sean,

While I don’t know every single local ordinance, I couldn’t find a single state law that requires bagging alcoholic beverages after they've been sold.

That said, I’m sure there are plenty of organizations and people who think that it is a law, though I don’t know why. To be fair, some stores might have their own bagging policy. At least if you walk out of a wine shop with a bottle in a bag, it can help show it’s been paid for. I know plenty of checkers who put glass bottles in bags to protect them, even if it’s a bottle of soy sauce. But you’re right that unnecessary bagging can have an impact on the environment … says the wine advice columnist who always walks into a store with a reusable shopping bag.

I’m guessing bagging your alcohol comes with the intention that it provides a sense of privacy, in case you meet the preacher on your way home, as they say. I also think some of the brown-bag confusion might be related to “open container” laws, thinking you might want your bottle in a brown bag to divert attention, should you want to break this law.

I should mention several states have laws that require restaurants to seal leftover wine in a tamper-proof, transparent, one-time-use "doggie bag" if you want to take it home.

I think it’s fair to politely pass on the bag when you’re buying a bottle of wine, but I’m not surprised if you find some resistance from the people ringing you up that still feel your wine belongs in a bag.

—Dr. Vinny

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