According to data compiled by the Helena Independent Record, North Dakota has a total of 422 bars, an average of one bar for every 1,500 people.
That’s the highest state-level concentration in the nation.
That’s an interesting, though not entirely surprising, revelation. There are no doubt several factors contributing to it.
First, North Dakotans like to drink. Even though the state was on the alcohol prohibition bandwagon early, banning alcohol even before the 18th amendment was ratified, the German, Russian and Scandinavian heritage of the state’s citizens saw widespread disobedience to that law (see: blind pigs). The state’s commitment to drinking continues today.
The joke in the state that every little hamlet in the state has at least three things: A church, a bar and a gas station. The reason for that is practical. North Dakota is a state full of wide-open spaces. People want religion, booze and fuel. Thus every small town served those needs.
But there’s an interesting lesson here for the drunk driving debate the state seems to be having endlessly. Those who promote ever more draconian, and costly, laws seem to think that the issue of drunk driving can be solved through policy making. But that’s not true. The problem is only really going to be solved when North Dakotans quit drinking so much.
And given the history behind that drinking, it isn’t going to stop any time soon.