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When do NBA games stop serving alcohol?

In 2005, following the Malice at the Palace brawl in Detroit, the NBA introduced strict new rules regarding alcohol in arena’s while NBA games are taking place. A two alcoholic beverage limit, per person, per transaction. A limit on the size of drinks to 24 ounces. Alcohol sales terminate at the start of the fourth quarter in all areas of the stadium.

Our research indicates that these rules have not been updated since their introduction in 2005 and are in force in all NBA arenas. These rules aren’t so different from those at other big sporting events or concerts held in similar stadiums.

When is the cut off time for alcohol at stadium events?

During our research we reviewed the frequently asked questions and terms and conditions of many NBA venues. They all had very similar policies for the majority of events they held and all aligned when it came to applying the NBA’s 2005 directives around alcohol sale during NBA games.

The below is a summary of the guidance on alcohol sales at big events held at “The Ball Arena” in Denver. Home of the Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanches hockey team and the Colorado Mammoth lacrosse team.

The cutoff time for alcohol sales is the start of the 4th quarter for Nuggets & Mammoth games and the start of the 3rd period for Avalanche games.

Alcohol cutoff is usually 60 minutes prior to the end of special events unless otherwise determined by event management.

Alcohol cutoff times are subject to change without notice.

Guests will be required to open bottles and cans in front of Food & Beverage employees upon purchase at concession stands in compliance with NBA/NHL rules.

This is a fairly standard application of the rules across all NBA stadiums.

What is the NBA fan code of conduct?

The NBA fan code of conduct is laid out on the NBA’s website and is something fans opt into by purchasing a ticket and attending an NBA game. It was introduced at the same time as the alcohol restriction rules were put in place in 2005 in response to the Malice at the Palace brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons.

It lists behaviors that are encouraged while attending NBA games.

  • Players and fans respect and appreciate each other.
  • Guests will be treated in a professional and courteous manner by all arena and team personnel.
  • Guests will enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language and obscene gestures.
  • Guests will consume alcoholic beverages in a responsible manner. Intervention with an impaired, intoxicated or underage guest will be handled in a prompt and safe manner.
  • Guests will sit only in their ticketed seats and show their tickets when requested.
  • Guests who engage in fighting, throwing objects or attempting to enter the court will be immediately ejected from the arena.
  • Guests will smoke in designated smoking areas only.
  • Obscene or indecent messages on signs or clothing will not be permitted.
  • Guests will comply with requests from arena staff regarding arena operations and emergency response procedures.
  • Guests will comply with all COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

There is also a list of prohibited items, however at the time of writing the URL was broken, so we cannot share it with you.

Do I need an ID to buy alcohol at NBA games?

You will almost certainly need to provide ID to buy alcohol at NBA games. The NBA and all its arenas are signed up to TEAM Coalition. This is a national body that aids alcohol vendors to understand and limit the risks involved. As such you will be asked to provide ID if you look to be under a certain age. This age varies based on state, but heads up, it’s not 21!

We took this extract from the Madison Square Garden (MSG) FAQs.

Please be aware that it is the policy of MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment to require all guests who appear to be forty (40) years of age or younger to present a valid form of ID with proof of age in order to purchase alcoholic beverages at Madison Square Garden. Pursuant to applicable State law, we accept only the following forms of identification:

– A valid driver’s license or non-driver identification card issued by the United States Government, a State Government, Commonwealth, Possession or Territory of the United States or a Provincial Government of Canada

– A valid passport

– A valid U.S. military ID

What is the TEAM Coalition?

Since 1985, TEAM (Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management) Coalition has flourished as a unique alliance of professional and collegiate sports, entertainment facilities, concessionaires, stadium service providers, the beer industry, broadcasters, government traffic safety experts, and others working together to promote responsible drinking and positive fan behavior at sports and entertainment facilities.

  • Taken from

The NBA has been a member of TEAM Coalition, a national organization promoting safe alcohol sales at events. TEAM lists the NBA rules on its website along with those of similar bodies such as the NFL. We have listed for comparison.

TEAM policies regarding the purchase and consumption of alcohol

  • Alcohol sales cut off time:
    • MLB: end of 7th inning
    • MLS: 75th minute
    • NFL: end of 3rd quarter
    • NBA: end of 3rd period
    • NHL: end of 2nd period

Sports and entertainment facility operators may consider the service of NA beer (products with less than 0.5% alcohol by volume) after alcohol sales are cut-off. This option would be aligned with responsible alcohol management when employees are trained to ensure consistent implementation of facility alcohol service policies.

  • ID policy: 30 and younger
  • Maximum number of alcohol beverages per purchase: 2
  • Maximum serving size per beer:
    • MLB: 25 oz
    • MLS: 25 oz
    • NFL: 25 oz
    • NBA: 25 oz
    • NHL: 25 oz
  • Denial of outside alcohol beverages into the venue