Monday, January 5, 2009

Buying Booze For Your Party "On The Cheap"

Its going to be SuperBowl Party-Time soon...if hosting one, are you ready? Stocking up on enough alcohol for a party can cost a small fortune. Your best bet — visit your local warehouse clubs, which regularly offer discounts of 10% to 30%. But what about those hefty membership fees, you ask? (An annual membership at Costco costs $50, while nonmembers at BJ's will have a 15% fee added to their bill.)

Thanks to some little-known state laws, nonmembers can purchase alcohol without paying a membership fee. These laws date back to the 1930s, when Prohibition was repealed. Massachusetts' law, for example, provides that applicants for a license to sell alcohol must "serve the public need and protect the common good." In simpler terms, alcohol sold must be available for purchase by the greater public — no membership restrictions. (The ol' minimum age requirement still applies.) "We uphold those old laws; therefore, any alcohol sold in our clubs in such states is open to the public," says Teleia Farrell, a spokeswoman for BJ's Wholesale Clubs.

Taking advantage of this deal depends on where you live, and at which discount club you shop. Here's a rundown of the policies at the three major players:

Now, these policies are far from common knowledge. (Trust us — in our search for details, we called everyone from the Distilled Spirits Council to the American Bar Association and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. No one had heard of them.) Avoiding the fee may take some fancy footwork:

Find a manager. Don't expect to find an employee who has heard of this policy. So ask to speak with the manager as soon as you enter the store.

Bring this article with you. It can't hurt, and may convince a skeptical employee that you're in the right.

Stick to alcohol. This membership fee loophole only applies to alcohol. So don't push your luck by loading your cart up with other items. If you do, expect to pony up that nonmember fee. (source: