Cash in on Costco’s improved beer selection -- without a membership

Thanks to an old post-Prohibition blue law, you don't need to have a Costco membership to take advantage of deals on alcohol (at least in California).
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

Costco, king of the Southern California warehouse stores, has been working to improve its beer selection in recent years. It has added imported brews and craft beers to its selection of wines and liquor, and though they don’t do much to advertise it, you don’t even need to have a Costco membership to take advantage of the deals (at least in California).

That’s thanks to an old post-Prohibition blue law that was intended to curtail speakeasies: If an establishment has the basic type-21 liquor license for off-site sales, it must sell booze to everyone in the general public and cannot legally require a membership for purchases.

The loophole was pointed out on local beer blog Beer Guy LA:

“For many years I’ve been using this loophole for spirits and wine, but in the last year Costco has really stepped up their craft beer game. On my last trip, they were selling Stone, Avery, Boston Beer Company, Golden Road, and some Belgian beers all at prices lower than anywhere I’ve ever seen.”

Unlike the 50-pound bags of tortilla chips and drums of mayonnaise sold in the sprawling warehouses, the beer actually comes in reasonably-sized packages. Lots of cases are available, but there are also smaller variety packs and even single 22-ounce bottles on offer.


Beer Guy LA explains how to take advantage of the loophole:

“Go to the card checker and tell them you are only buying alcohol. They will either just wave you through or make you get a slip from the membership desk. Go pick up your beer, wine, or spirits and head to the register (FYI you won’t be able to purchase any other items by this method). The only catch is you must pay with cash, debit, or American Express (which applies even if you have a Costco membership). That’s it!”

But the big question remains: Is discounted craft beer enough incentive for you to brave the dreaded parking lot at the local Costco?


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