What Does Boston Have Against Happy Hour? And Other Obscure Laws

Many states still have arcane laws on the books that are not only complex, but also riddled with many loopholes that can stymie a consumer's ability to obtain a job or limit the ability of a business to generate growth.

Some of the newly passed laws are downright absurd: beginning September 1, Texas now allows residents to carry swords openly in public. The law also made it legitimate to carry around spears and daggers as a part of their daily routine.

Other laws were enacted decades ago to protect consumers against potentially injuring themselves such as the ban passed by New Jersey lawmakers preventing drivers from pumping their own gasoline and the lack of happy hours in several states such as Massachusetts and North Carolina.

Here are 10 absurd laws that are unlikely to be overturned by lawmakers in the near term.

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Editors' pick: Originally published Sept. 22.

1. New York and anti-speakeasy laws
1. New York and anti-speakeasy laws

While these laws were enacted during the era of infamous mobsters such as Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, New York still has a labyrinth of anti-speakeasy laws which impact the hotel, restaurant and nightlife industry.

After Prohibition ended, state lawmakers wanted the establishments to be visible from the street and accessible to tourists, which means it is illegal to have "passageways" in buildings to get to a club, said Alexander Victor, who represents large hotel and restaurant operators as senior counsel at Davidoff Hutcher and Citron, a New York law firm.

Another unusual law also requires that rooftop bars are not legal unless they are also co-located with a full-service kitchen or restaurant.

"If your favorite establishment in New York happens to have beautiful frosted glass for windows or doors or they are tinted so it is not transparent enough to see the inside from the street, that is another violation of the law, to once again prevent a speakeasy boom from taking root in and around the Big Apple," he said.

2. No happy hour in Massachusetts or North Carolina
2. No happy hour in Massachusetts or North Carolina

Massachusetts still has a ban on happy hour and its antiquated alcohol law is not likely to be overturned anytime soon, unlike states such as Illinois that reversed its 25-year ban on bars and restaurants in 2015. Kansas made the existence of happy hour legal in 2012 after a 20-year ban.

In Virginia, happy hour is allowed, but cannot occur between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. Restaurants and bars can tout their drinks specials as much as they want on their website and social media, but any other advertising is strictly prohibited, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said. The discount prices during happy hour are allowed, but two-for-one drink specials are illegal.

In North Carolina, only food can be discounted during happy hour. Buckets of beer must be sold to more than one person and not an individual.

3. No liquor-only bars in Virginia
3. No liquor-only bars in Virginia

Virginia does have more wonky alcohol laws such as the "45% Rule," which states that if you are a business that wants the "mixed beverage license" that is required to sell liquor and mixed drinks, then food and nonalcoholic beverage sales must account for at least 45% of the gross sales of mixed beverages and food, said Alexander Lange, the director of litigation for Levick, a Washington, D.C.-based strategic communications firm for public affairs, litigation and business issues.

"So, there are no liquor only bars in Virginia," he said. "If you want to sell liquor, you must have a substantial food and non-alcoholic beverage business and it's great for consumers because all the bars have to at least try to make their food good because they need to sell it. However, I have seen many 'fun' bars in the Arlington, Va. area close down because of what I would guess was an inability to maintain a significant restaurant business."

4. Can't pump your own gasoline in New Jersey, Oregon and parts of Massachusetts
4. Can't pump your own gasoline in New Jersey, Oregon and parts of Massachusetts

New Jersey, Oregon and a smattering of communities in Massachusetts still ban drivers from pumping their own gasoline. The lawmakers in New Jersey originally intended the law to potentially protect consumers from injuring themselves and still have no plans to repeal the law that also protects jobs for its residents.

5. Speeding in Virginia is a misdemeanor
5. Speeding in Virginia is a misdemeanor

Ever heard of Virginia's Reckless Driving by Speed (Va. Code § 46.2-862) law? This unusual law, which has slim changes of being changed, states that drivers going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or going over 80 miles per hour, regardless of the speed limit, constitutes reckless driving, said Lange.

This law is atypical, because reckless driving is a criminal offense. It is a class 1 misdemeanor, which is the highest class of misdemeanor Virginia has and directly below a class 6 felony, punishable by up to a year in jail, a $2,500 fine and six-month month loss of driving privileges in Virginia - all maximums.

The critical thing to note is that it could appear on a criminal background check and Virginia does not expunge any guilty convictions from your record. Other examples of class 1 misdemeanors include DUI, assault and petit larceny, he said.

Since many stretches of highway in Virginia (including I-95), have maximum speed limits of 70 mph, "this means that you could have a criminal charge on your record for going just 11 or 12 miles per hour over the speed limit, and unfortunately, plenty of people do," Lange said.

This law does benefit solo practitioners and small law firms in Virginia, since these drivers "form a consistent and reliable contribution to any small criminal defense firm's bottom line, with firms charging anywhere from $100 to over $1,000 per case," he said.

Virginia has recently put up signs in certain counties warning that going over 80 is a reckless driving offense.

"I do not believe these signs will have much of a deterrent effect since the average driver and especially an out of state driver would not know that it is a criminal offense and they would probably just assume it's an expensive speeding ticket," Lange said.

6. States ban housing discrimination against the unemployed
6. States ban housing discrimination against the unemployed

Two state law categories ban discrimination against the unemployed and discrimination based on housing status.

The first set of laws makes it unlawful to publish a job posting stating that unemployed applicants will not be considered or that current employment is a requirement for a job. These laws apply in New Jersey; Oregon; Chicago; Madison, Wis.; New York City; and Washington, D.C., said David Weisenfeld, a legal editor at XpertHR, a New Providence, N.J. online service providing HR professionals with employment law information.

Rhode Island has a unique law that prevents employers from treating applicants or employees unfairly based on their housing status.

"The law states that homeless individuals have the right not to face discrimination while seeking or maintaining employment due to their lack of a permanent mailing address," he said.

7. Illinois bans credit score checks for employment
7. Illinois bans credit score checks for employment

Although a federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), requires that job applicants consent to a potential employer pulling their credit report, other states such as Illinois have enacted additional protection.

In 2011, Illinois passed a law that prohibits employers from utilizing an employee's credit report or history as a reason to hire, fire, or set pay and conditions for many jobs, according to the Illinois Legal Aid. This does not apply for companies such as banks, insurance companies, state law enforcement, state and local governments and debt collectors who need consent from the employee.

8. Used cars cannot be returned
8. Used cars cannot be returned

Most consumers do not realize that once you purchase a used car, even from a large, reputable dealer, there is no going back. It is rare for a dealer to allow drivers to return a car.

"There is no 'grace period' or 'three-day return period' for car purchases with the exception of California, where you will incur a fee or if a dealership has their own policy," said Chris Basso, a used car expert for Carfax, the Centreville, Va.-based company which provides vehicle history reports. "It doesn't hurt to ask about your options if you decide afterward it's not the right car for you, but normally, once you buy the car, it's yours."

Most used cars are purchased "as is" and if the car has mechanical problems, those issues are "yours now," said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com, an Irvine, Calif.-based company which provides resale value of vehicles.

"A buyer might have some legal leverage if he or she can prove the seller knowingly misrepresented the car's condition, but in practice, that is very difficult to substantiate," he said. "Money-back guarantees are rare, but the exchange of one used car for another off the dealer's lot is more common."

9. Texas and Missouri don't allow the sale of cars on Sunday
9. Texas and Missouri don't allow the sale of cars on Sunday

In Texas and 13 other states such as Colorado and New jersey, car dealerships cannot be open on Sunday because of the leftover "blue laws" that are religious in nature and ban the sale of liquor and vehicles. Others have limited hours such as in Rhode Island, where car dealerships can sell vehicles from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and in Maryland it is legal in just four our of 26 counties (Montgomery, Charles, Prince George and Howard). In Texas, you can open either on Saturday or Sunday, but the law still prevents them from opening during the entire weekend.

10. Athletes must pay state and city taxes where games take place
10. Athletes must pay state and city taxes where games take place

Professional athletes must file taxes where they reside, but also in the states where they play their games. There are also some cities which require them to pay taxes as well. Some states such as Arizona and Michigan exclude the pre-season. The requirements are tricky, especially if the athlete is traded during a season or winds up signing a new contract in another state.

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