Mapping the data: A third of Pennsylvania is 'dry' because of booze bans

An LNP analysis of Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board data found that nearly 700 townships and boroughs – nearly 27 percent of the state’s 2,562 local governments – ban the sale of beer and liquor altogether or are at least dry in some form.

Here’s something to consider as you head out to your neighborhood pub, pick up a sixpack of craft beer or uncork a bottle of merlot this weekend: One in four Pennsylvania towns bans the sale of booze, either totally or partially.

An LNP analysis of Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board data found that nearly 700 townships and boroughs – about 27 percent of the state’s 2,562 local governments – ban the sale of beer and liquor altogether or are at least dry in some form.

They include one in five Lancaster County municipalities.

A Third of Pennsylvania Is ‘Dry’

All told, those 684 “dry” or partially dry townships, boroughs and cities stretch across 14,034 square miles of land – more than 31 percent of Pennsylvania’s 44,743 square miles.

Related Story: Lancaster County bars oppose plan to serve booze until 4 a.m.

The bans range from complete prohibition on the sale of booze in some spots – including East Drumore Township in southern Lancaster County – to bans on retail sales of either liquor or beer in others. Many of the restrictions date to the post-Prohibition era of the 1930s.

According to the Liquor Control Board, 530 local governments ban retail sales of both liquor and beer. Another 122 municipalities just prohibit retail sales of beer. And 32 places ban retail liquor sales.

Map: Booze Bans Across Pennsylvania

This map shows all 684 “dry” or partially dry townships, boroughs and cities across Pennsylvania. Hover over a red area to see details about the municipality, the type of prohibitions against alcohol it maintains and the years those bans were enacted. A full-screen version of the map can be found here

‘People In This Area Don’t Want Liquor’

Twelve of Lancaster County’s 60 local governments ban the sale of booze in some form, according to the Liquor Control Board data. Most of the townships that ban the sale of booze here are in the rural farming communities of southern Lancaster County, which have historically been a stronghold for Prohibitionist sentiments.

Related Story: Lancaster County and the end of Prohibition

In 2009, the vice president of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society told LNP:  "The majority of people in this area don't want liquor. Whenever you have liquor, you have problems.”

Totally Dry in East Drumore

The most stringent rules on the sale of booze here are in East Drumore Township, a rural municipality bisected by Route 222 between Quarryville and Peach Bottom about 15 miles south of downtown Lancaster.

When Pennsylvania and the nation repealed Prohibition in December 1933, East Drumore Township stayed wet only until the spring of 1934, when voters reinstated the ban on alcohol-dispensing restaurants and hotels.

It reaffirmed that ban in 1997, when voters overwhelmingly defeated a ballot initiative to allow the sale of booze.

That ban, however, did not extend to beer distributors or state-run liquor stores – at least until 2005, after the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s announced its plan to sell booze at Musser’s Market in East Drumore Township. Opponents promptly approved bans on all retail and wholesale sales of beer, wine and liquor.

Back to the Ballot

Part of the township’s strict rules could fall, however, in the May 19 primary. Voters will be deciding whether the retail sales of beer, wine and liquor should be legal as supporters have managed to get yet another referendum on the ballot.

The question reads: “Do you favor the granting of liquor licenses for privately owned qualifying businesses for the sale of beer, wine and/or liquor in the Township of East Drumore?”

Where booze is banned

The 12 Lancaster County governments that ban the sale of booze in some form represent 26 percent of the county - 244 of its 944 square miles.

They are, according to the Liquor Control Board:

  • Akron Borough: This northeast Lancaster County town of 4,000 residents banned retail sales of liquor in 1953 but allows the retail and wholesale sales of beer.
  • Caernarvon Township: This rural eastern Lancaster County municipality of 4,800 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1951 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • Colerain Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of 3,700 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1947 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • Drumore Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of 2,600 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1934 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • East Drumore Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of 3,800 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1934, then went on to ban beer distributors and state stores in 2005.
  • Eden Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of 2,300 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1979 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • Fulton Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of 3,100 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1935 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • Little Britain Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of 4,100 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1934 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • Providence Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of 7,000 residents banned the retail sales of beer in 1934 and liquor in 1935 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • Strasburg Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of 4,200 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1949 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • West Earl Township: This Lancaster County municipality of 8,000 residents banned the retail sales of beer and liquor in 1936 but allows wholesalers to operate.
  • West Lampeter Township: This southern Lancaster County municipality of more than 15,000 residents banned the retail sales of beer in 1943 but allows retail sales of liquor and wholesalers to operate. In 2009, voters removed the township’s 74-year-old ban on retail liquor sales, allowing the sale of wine, spirits and beer by the drink or six-pack. The move allowed for the issuance of licenses to venues such as restaurants and hotels.

Database: All Booze Bans in Pennsylvania

This data set shows all 684 “dry” or partially dry townships, boroughs and cities across Pennsylvania. See details about the municipality, the type of prohibitions against alcohol it maintains and the years those bans were enacted.