Historical Highlights


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  • The Volstead Act (national prohibition)

    Men pouring alcohol out of a barrel during a prohibition raid.

    January 20, 1920 — December 5, 1933

    The Volstead Act (national prohibition) becomes effective following ratification of the 18th Amendment by the states. The 18th Amendment prohibited the 'manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquor'.

  • End of Prohibition

    Newspaper showing headline: Prohibition ends at last!


    • February 20, 1933 – Congress proposes the 21st Amendment to repeal national prohibition.
    • July 10, 1933 – Iowa ratifies.
    • December 15, 1933 - The 21st Amendment becomes effective.
  • Iowa Liquor Control Act

    Clerks wait behind a counter shielded with a metal grate.


    • March 6, 1934 – The Iowa Liquor Control Act is enacted.
    • Iowa assumes direct ‘control’ over the wholesale and retail sale of all alcoholic liquors except beer.
    • The Iowa Liquor Control Commission is established.
  • Iowa's first retail liquor stores

    Individual liquor permit
    • The State of Iowa opens retail liquor stores in Des Moines, Mason City, Marshalltown, Atlantic, and Oelwein.
    • Holders of individual or special permits may purchase alcoholic liquor by the bottle for personal use only.
  • 1934 Press Release Summary

    • Iowa Liquor Control Act Articles and Details
    • Native vintners had the ability to sell their wine for off premise consumption.
    • Opinion pieces on the Iowa Liquor Control Act at the time.
  • 1963 - Liquor by the Drink is Allowed

    An advertisement for Sunny Brook Kentucky whiskey. Come over on the Sunny Brook side! For the holiday season and for the years to come... enjoy the whiskey that's cheerful as its name
    • The class "C" liquor license is created, allowing the sale of alcoholic liquor by the glass for consumption on the licensed premises.
    • Counties have the 'local option' of prohibiting liquor by the drink in their jurisdictions. ('Local option' repealed Jan. 1, 1972).
    • Dram shop liability insurance becomes a precondition to the issuance of on-premises retail liquor licenses and beer permits.
  • 1963 Press Release Summary

    Newspaper clipping reads in part: Governor Hughes advocates legalizing liquor by the drink however insisted that the present law must be enforced.
    • Minimum $300 fine for allowing liquor to be consumed on an unlicensed premises. Liquor can only be consumed in the home or hotel/motel room.
    • Class "C" license fees
      • In a town with population over 3,000 people- $1,000
      • In a town with population under 3,000 people- $750
      • Outside of a city/town- $1,000
    • Proponents of offering liquor by the drink noted that cities/towns on the borders were losing business to other states that could already sell liquor by the drink.
  • Tax Changes

    July 1, 1967

    A special 15% licensee tax on liquor and wine replaces the 10% occupational tax, which had been effective since July 4, 1963. The 15% tax is paid at the point of purchase on liquor and wine purchased for resale in licensed establishments. The 10% occupational tax had been paid on liquor purchased in licensed establishments. (15% licensee tax repealed July 1, 1986.)

  • Chapter 123 Created

    • Liquor statutes in the Iowa Code are streamlined from 12 chapters down to one.
    • The Iowa Beer and Liquor Control Department replaces the Iowa Liquor Commission.
  • Class "C" License Changes

    Glasses of liquor, wine, and beer

    The class "C" liquor license becomes a combination on-premises liquor, wine and beer license, ending the necessity to obtain separate city and state permits.

  • Grocery Stores

    A 1970's grocery store with gold checkouts and manual registers.

    May 4, 1972

    The term 'grocery store' is redefined, allowing gasoline stations selling a few grocery items to also sell beer for off-premises consumption.

  • Sunday Sales


    • Qualifying licensees and permittees are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays by adding a Sunday sales privilege.
    • Counties are given the 'local option' of prohibiting Sunday sales in their jurisdictions. ('Local option' repealed Aug. 15, 1977).
  • 1973 Press Release Summary

    • Sunday sales privilege was proposed at 15%(Senate) and 20%(House) of current license, bars could not get a Sunday sales privilege, there was a food service requirement and 50% of sales needed to be goods/services other than alcohol.
    • Bars found a way around the law by adjusting their books to decrease the cost of alcohol and increase the cost of mixers and other goods/services to meet the 50% requirement.
    • Proponents of Sunday sales again said border towns were losing business to other states that offered Sunday sales.
    • Opponents of Sunday sales were worried about less people attending church and more traffic accidents on Sunday (Sunday accidents were lower than Friday and Saturday)
  • 5 Cent Deposit Begins

    May 1, 1979

    Under a bottle deposit law, the Department begins collecting a 5-cent deposit on each bottle of liquor and wine sold to the general public.

  • Bonds Sale

    Early bond

    July 1, 1980

    The sale of revenue bonds is authorized for the financing of a new liquor distribution center. A bid opening is held on Aug. 7, 1980 with the successful bidder submitting an interest rate of 6.25% on the $4 million sale.

  • Tap Rooms Created


    • Iowa Code is amended to allow an Iowa brewer to obtain a single class “B” beer permit at its manufacturing location.
    • Permit allows the holder to sell beer it obtains from a wholesaler for on or off-premises consumption.
  • ABD Moves

    ABD new facility and offices

    January 7, 1981

    The Department's administrative offices are moved into the new liquor distribution center and the warehouse is moved the following April. It is the first time in more than 30 years that both components of the Department are housed within the same facility.

  • 1981 Press Release Summary

    January 11, 1981 — August 1, 1981

    • Pickett Brewing Company in Dubuque was the only beer maker in Iowa.
    • Pickett was having trouble surviving on its own and was bought by AGRI Industries. They also received income from the movie “Take This Job And Shove It”, which used the brewery for filming.
    • Picket opened a distribution center in Urbandale using one of its subsidiaries, Foster Beverage Corporation, to distribute its beer to central Iowa.
    • 44-0 vote to allow breweries, which hold a Class "A" beer permit, to sell beer from the premises
    • Picket workers strike, ironically similar to the movie that was filmed there. They noted that they couldn’t compete with the big beer companies.
    • Beer wholesalers failed in a bid to restrict where bars and grocery stores can buy from. Assistant Attorney General said that potential antitrust problems would be created if the state provided each distributor a protected territory
    • There were 13 native wineries in Iowa. The legislature delayed a decision for direct shipment of wine. The argument from the wineries was that increasing costs of travel was limiting consumers from going to the wineries to buy directly.

  • Mini Liquor Stores Established

    July 1, 1984

    The Iowa Legislature appropriates funds for 'not less than six new mini stores.' Mini liquor stores are established in Johnston, southwest Des Moines, Pleasant Hill, Altoona, Eldridge and northwest Davenport, bringing the total number of stores to 220.

  • Reorganization Ends Wine Monopoly


    • Iowa's monopoly of the wholesale and retail sale of wine is ended.
    • A dual system of wine is created with the issuance of new wholesale and retail wine permits to qualified applicants.
  • Native Wine Changes


    • Native wine manufacturers are required to obtain class “A” wine permit.
    • Native wine manufacturers may ship wine to purchasers in and outside the state.
    • Wine gallonage tax imposed on all wine sold at wholesale by native wineries.
  • Iowa Wine & Beer Promotion Board Created


    • The Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board was created in 1986 for the purpose of promoting Iowa-made wine and beer.
    • The Board is funded by a portion of taxes levied on beer and wine manufactured in Iowa.
  • Reorganization Ends Retail Monopoly


    • The Iowa Beer and Liquor Control Department is renamed the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (Division).
    • The Division retains its role as the sole wholesaler of all alcoholic liquor sold in Iowa.
    • Wholesale wine sales are placed entirely in the private sector. The Division continues retail wine sales in state liquor stores until June 30, 1987.
    • Iowa prepares to dissolve its retail operations and begins issuing new class "E" liquor licenses to private sector businesses.
  • Legal Age Limit Changes

    Early bond

    July 1, 1986

    • Iowa's legal drinking age is raised to 21 years. Previous legal drinking ages were:
    • 19 (July 1, 1978 to July 1, 1986) *
    • 18 (July 1, 1973 to July 1, 1978)
    • 19 (July 1, 1972 to July 1, 1973)
    • 21 (prior to July 1, 1972)
    • *Did not apply to persons born on or before June 30, 1960.
  • Transition from State Liquor Stores

    March 1, 1987

    221 state retail liquor stores close as 256 licensed private liquor outlets are established in the same market areas. During a four-month transition period, state stores continue to close as private outlets are established.

  • Retail Privatization Complete

    July 1, 1987

    Iowa's reorganized liquor control system is fully operational with 410 licensed private outlets selling liquor to retail consumers and to on-premises licensees. The Division wholesales liquor to the private outlets.

  • Fee Changes

    July 1, 1988

    • A $300 civil penalty replaces the 14-day suspension, which is imposed for a conviction of Iowa Code Section 123.49(2)(h) - selling, giving or otherwise supplying an alcoholic beverage or beer to a person under the legal-drinking age.
    • License fees are lowered for licensed establishments located in areas that meet the definition of an 'unincorporated town.'
  • 1988-89 Press Release Summary

    October 9, 1988 — July 14, 1989

    • William Knapp wanted to build a brewpub (Schooners) in Des Moines. Senate approved it.
    • Fitzpatricks, a bar in Iowa City, was the first to build a brewpub ahead of William Knapp. They added a second story onto their existing bar.
    • There were 60-70 brewpubs nationally. The first one is thought to originate from California in 1933.
  • Brew Pubs Created


    A new special class "A" beer (brew pub) permit is created to allow holders of class "C" liquor licenses and class "B" beer permits to manufacture beer in their establishments for on-premises consumption.

  • Fee, Penalty, & Permission Changes

    July 1, 1989

    • Establishes a civil penalty up to $1,000 which may be imposed on beer and wine wholesalers who violate provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 123.49
    • Allows wine wholesalers and vintners to provide coupons and rebates on purchases of wine
    • Eliminates the requirement that ministers, priests and rabbis obtain a special permit to purchase wine for sacramental use
  • License Changes

    July 1, 1990

    • New five-day class "C" and special class "C" liquor licenses and class "B" beer permits are created for festivals, fairs and celebrations 'sponsored or authorized' by a local authority.
    • 14-day class "B" wine permits are rescinded. Only six-month, eight-month and annual class "B" wine permits may be issued.
  • License Changes

    July 1, 1991

    On-premises class "A," "B" and "C" liquor licensees are allowed to purchase limited quantities of wine (up to one case per wine brand within a 24-hour period) from off-premises class "E" liquor licensees that also hold an off-premises class "B" wine permit.

  • Alcohol Sales Hours Changed

    July 1, 1992

    The hours of selling alcoholic beverages on Sundays are lengthened. New Sunday hours are from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m on the following Monday. Previous Sunday hours of sale were:

    • 10 am to midnight (July 1, 1984 to July 1, 1992)
    • Noon to 10 p.m. (Prior to July 1, 1984)
  • Legislative Changes

    July 1, 1993

    The Division's three-member hearing board is disbanded and a new appeal process is established. Licensees unsatisfied with a decision of the Division administrator will file appeals directly with the district court. Licencees and permittees unsatisfied with a decision of the local authority will file appeals directly with the Division administrator. Other legislation effective on this date:

    • Eliminates the requirement that physicians, veterinarians, pharmacists and food manufacturers obtain a special permit to manufacture and sell medicines, food products, toiletries, perfumes and other items containing alcohol
    • Establishes administrative civil penalties in amounts up to $1,000, which may be imposed for violations of Iowa Code Chapter 123.49. Civil penalties imposed by the Division are retained for licensee and law enforcement education
    • Changes the time frame (from five to three years) for progressive administrative sanctions imposed against licensees as the result of sales-to-minors (Iowa Code Section 123.49) violations
    • Creates a catering privilege allowing class "B" and "C" liquor licensees to cater alcoholic beverages as part of a food catering service at private social gatherings
    • Eliminates OWI Intoxication Notice posting requirement
  • Changes in Fees

    July 1, 1994

    • Distilled spirits brokers are licensed by the Division for an annual fee of $25.
    • Liquor licensees are allowed to confiscate driver's licenses and Iowa identification cards if the licensee has reasonable belief that the license has been altered, falsified or belongs to another person and is being used to purchase or attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages.
  • Wine Shipment Law Changes


    • The Reciprocal Shipment of Wines law is enacted allowing Iowa native wineries to ship wine into other states with reciprocal shipment privilege laws to individuals 21 and older.
    • All wine shipments must be for personal use only.
  • Iowa Code 123.47A Repealed

    July 1, 1997

    Iowa Code Section 123.47A is repealed. Criminal penalties for sales-to-minors violations by licensees, their employees or agents are changed from a simple misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine ($50 for sales to 19- and 20-year-olds) to a serious misdemeanor punishable by a $1,500 fine. When an employee or agent of a liquor licensee commits a violation, the licensee and employee or agent are considered to have committed the violation. Each must pay a $1,500 fine. All sales-to-minors violations receive the same administrative civil penalties, license suspensions and revocations.

  • Code 123.49(2)(h) Amended

    May 29, 1998

    Iowa Code Section 123.49 (2)(h) is amended to change sales-to-minors violations from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor punishable by a scheduled violation of $100 under section 805.8 as opposed to the previous fine of $500.


    I-PLEDGE logo

    May 5, 2000

    Funding and authority for tobacco enforcement is appropriated and transferred to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division. Under the authority granted by the Legislature, the Division creates the Iowa Pledge Tobacco Education and Enforcement Program (I-PLEDGE).

  • I-PLEDGE Data Release

    July 1, 2001

    The Division releases initial I-PLEDGE statistics. Initial data showed that the retail compliance rate following the first year of I-PLEDGE was 82%. The compliance rate was compiled with data from law enforcement agencies conducting compliance checks of tobacco retailers across the state.

  • $1-Billion in Transfers to General Fund Reached

    May 1, 2005

    The Division topped $1 billion in transfers to the General Fund since being reorganized in 1987.

  • Smokefree Air Act

    No Smoking sign

    The Iowa Smokefree Air Act took effect, banning smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants.

  • Changes for native wineries & breweries


    • Class “C” native wine permit updated to allow native wineries and other retailers to sell native wine for consumption on the licensed premises.
    • Native wineries and breweries may share employees, provided the person has no ownership interest in either licensed premises.
  • Record Division Transfer

    June 30, 2009

    The Division transferred over $100 million to the General Fund for the first time in a single fiscal year.

  • Wine Direct Shipper License Created

    Wine bottle in box


    Iowa wine laws changed from reciprocity to direct shipment. Wine manufacturers may now ship product directly to Iowa consumers for personal use. Wineries are subject to obtaining an Iowa license and remitting wine gallonage taxes to the state.

  • Micro-Distilled Spirits Permit Created; High Alcohol Content Beer Classified


    • A class "A" Micro-Distilled Spirits permit is created.
    • High alcoholic content beer is defined as beer which contains more than 5% of alcohol by weight, but not more than 12% of alcohol by weight.
  • Charity Wine & Beer

    March 1, 2010

    A Charity Beer and Wine Auction Permit is created, allowing nonprofit entities to hold up to two beer and wine auctions per calendar year.

  • Liquor Allowed in C-Stores


    Prohibition of the sale of liquor where gasoline is sold is repealed.

  • Iowa Code & Administrative Changes

    January 1, 2011

    • The delivery of alcoholic beverages by licensees and permittees is codified.
    • The Division is authorized to develop and implement a statewide employee alcohol compliance training program.
    • Tobacco enforcement duties transferred to the Division from the Department of Health.
  • Infusion


    • Iowa Code §123.49(2)“d” is amended to allow a person holding a liquor control license or retail wine or beer permit to mix and store cocktails that are not for immediate consumption.
    • Label requirements for storage containers.
    • Cannot be stored in the original container.
  • I-Pact

    I-PACT logo

    February 12, 2012

    The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) launched the Iowa Program for Alcohol Compliance Training (I-PACT) on February 29, 2012. The goal of the eLearning course is to increase voluntary compliance with the state’s alcohol laws through education.

  • Dram & Non-Profit Changes

    July 1, 2013

    • Licensees are allowed to purchase a dram shop insurance policy written on an aggregate limit basis that meets the minimum coverage requirements as determined by the Division.
    • Nonprofit organizations are permitted to auction spirits at a charity auction after receiving a charity beer, spirits and wine auction permit from the Division.
  • Web Portal & eLicense

    January 1, 2015

    The Division launches a web portal that enables distributors and suppliers to place and promote products and licensees/customers to place orders electronically rather than by telephone or fax. Beginning July 1, 2015, any new licensee was required to order electronically. After September 1, 2015, any class "E" renewing their license was required to begin ordering electronically upon renewal. By August 31, 2016, all licensees were ordering electronically, including larger enterprises using EDI (electronic data interface).

  • Changes for Brew Pubs


    Retailers operating as brew pubs may sell beer to wholesalers in other states, in accordance with the laws of that state.

  • Growlers in C-Stores

    64 Fluid ouce Growler style beer bottle in brown glass with a screw top cap


    • Retailers with class “C” permits are allowed to fill, refill and sell beer ‘growlers’ of craft beer to go.
    • Properly sealed growlers are not considered open containers.
  • Tasting, Sampling, & Trade Spending

    December 30, 2015

    Revised administrative rules for tasting, sampling and trade spending come into effect, clarifying practices for industry members and retailers.

  • Iowa Code Under Review

    August 10, 2016

    Governor orders comprehensive review of Iowa Code