Posted on: January 4, 2023

Legal Drinking Age Law: Are Bars Changing to 25 and Up?

Legal Drinking Age Law

The legal drinking age in the United States has changed over the years. Since the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act, there has been an ongoing debate surrounding the legal drinking age of 21 in the U.S. Some believe the drinking age should be lowered, while others believe the legal drinking age should be increased to 25. 

Regardless of the legal drinking age, some bars have recently raised the minimum age of entry. These bars are now places for those 25 and up or, in some instances, 30 and older. If you work in a bar or are simply planning a night out, it’s essential to be aware of the drinking laws and what bar age limits apply. 

What is the Legal Drinking Age

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by the federal government in 1984, made 21 years old the national minimum legal drinking age (MLDA). Now, all 50 states have a law requiring an individual to be 21 or older to buy and consume alcohol. All states forbid giving alcohol to individuals under 21. 

State exceptions to the national MLDA typically include the following: 

  • Religious activities  
  • Educational purposes
  • Lawful employment 
  • Parental, guardian, or spousal consent
  • Law enforcement purposes 
  • Medical reasons 

Among states that have an exception related to family consent, that exception is mainly limited to specific locations, such as:  

  • Private locations 
  • Private residences 
  • In the parent or guardian’s home 

No state has an exception that allows anyone other than a family member to provide alcohol to a minor on private property. 

Due to these exceptions, a complex system of laws was established. Local jurisdictions, states, and federal laws regulate who can sell, purchase, possess, and consume alcohol in a particular state.

As you can see, it can quickly get confusing regarding the minimum legal drinking age per state.

Moreover, there has been an intense discussion regarding the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) in the U.S. since the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was implemented in 1984.  

Some argue that raising the drinking age to 21 increases underage drinking and is inconsistent with other minimum age requirements, such as those for joining the military or purchasing a firearm.

On the opposing side, some claim that young adults are less likely to consume alcohol responsibly and that alcohol can affect the human brain while it is still developing. For this reason, some advocates of the drinking age limit feel that the U.S. should raise the drinking age even higher — to 25.

Are bars changing to 25 and up? 

In the U.S., the legal drinking age is 21. However, there have been bars and restaurants that have increased their age of entry to 25. 

For example, bars changing to 25 and up include Bentley’s on Broadway and Horizons & More in Texas. Bentley’s on Broadway, a craft beer and cocktail bar in San Antonio, recently increased the minimum age of entry, becoming a place for those 25 and up. Horizons & More is also making changes to their age policy, but instead of 25+, guests must be 30+ to enter their bar. 

Bentley's and Horizons are privately owned businesses; therefore, they can impose any age restrictions. There is no discrimination case to be made unless the government owns a bar.  There would be no cause of action for discrimination under the 14th Amendment equal protection or due process clauses. 

According to Chris Porter, the public relations officer for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), there is nothing stopping establishments from changing their bar age limit. If individuals under 21 aren't served or sold alcohol, no regulation imposes an age limit, young or old, for people to enter a bar. Nothing in the law would preclude establishments from asking customers to be of a certain age before they enter if they meet that requirement. 

While the legal age to consume alcohol is 21, no law enforces that customers 21+ must be allowed entry into establishments that serve alcohol. In reality, bars can lower their age of entry to 18+, though those under 21 who enter are not allowed to purchase or consume alcohol.

Bars 25 and Up Law

Federal and state governments have different authorities over alcohol laws. The state permits some municipalities to create and implement their own rules governing the sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol.

So, are bars’ age limit 25? As mentioned previously, the U.S. legal drinking age is 21. However, bar owners can refuse service to any customer under law if that decision isn't based on race, color, religion, or national origin.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination, including refusing service, based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 

Notice that the act does not mention age. Therefore, anyone under 25 or under 30 wanting to file a court claim against a bar with a 25-and-up or 30-and-up bar age limit could do so, although legal experts warn that they would have a very difficult time succeeding.

The Future of Bar Age Limits 

This growing trend among bars, as demonstrated in Texas, has many people wondering if bars are changing to 25 and up. 

When questioned, Bentley's did not explain the bar's new policy. However, Toya Taylor, the owner of Horizons, stated she doesn’t dislike the under-thirty set. She views it as making a business decision for her brand and that, in some rare instances, she might allow entry to a twenty-something to her bar. 

For now, it’s too early to tell if other bars will follow the age-exclusive initiative taken by bars like Bentley’s and Horizons. However, that decision is ultimately up to the owner of the bar. Regardless, if you are of legal drinking age, you will still be able to find a bar to sip on your favorite cocktail.

For more information on the legal drinking age and bar age limit, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or complete your alcohol safety training to legally work in your state as an alcoholic beverage server, so long as you meet the age requirements.