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Where Is It Legal to Drink in Public?


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Crack open a frosty Lone Star on the sidewalks of Fredricksburg, Texas, and the cops won't bat an eye. But open that same Lone Star on the sidewalks of Walla Walla, Washington, and you could face a steep fine (or worse) for drinking in public.

The United States has all sorts of blue laws about the purchase of alcoholic beverages, from states where you can't buy liquor on Sundays to regulations on grocery stores selling more than beer and wine. But there are also laws about alcohol consumption, especially if you're interested in public consumption.

Drinking in public places--including sidewalks, parks, stadiums, and beaches--is considered illegal in most jurisdictions in the U.S. Penalties range from hundreds of dollars in fines to jail time in some locales. Therefore, when you find a state with open container laws, treat it with respect.

But while many states have banned the ability to drink alcohol in public spaces statewide, the number of states that don't ban public drinking in certain cities or select Entertainment Districts--like the Las Vegas Strip--are increasing in the wake of the COVID pandemic as cities and states look to recoup lost entertainment and tourist dollars. Other states don't have a specific law on the books, but most cities or counties do officially prohibit it.

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to go drinks

(Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Always remember: It's best to double-check local public drinking laws before you partake, since you may be able to have an open container of alcohol, but many places prohibit glass bottles or cans, meaning you can walk down the street with your margarita, but you can't buy a bottle of wine from the convenience store and sit in a public park to drink it.

Furthermore, as craft beverages become more popular, especially with wineries and breweries congregating together in some locations, people in many states and cities are working to change some of these drinking laws. Again, it's always best to check if you're allowed to have open containers in certain places.

Find out where your hometown stands with this guide to public drinking by state.

Alabama

Public drinking is only permitted in select Entertainment Districts, but there are more of them than you might believe. Currently, there are approved drinking districts of the cities of Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, and even Tuscaloosa. However, these Entertainment Districts come with extra stipulations: In Mobile, for example, you must have "open plastic containers with a commercially printed name and/or logo of a designated licensee."

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Alaska

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts. While the state House recently made sweeping changes to the state's alcohol laws--allow bars and restaurants to serve at music festivals and other outdoor spaces--more than 75 Alaskan communities have banned alcohol outright.

Arizona

Public drinking of alcoholic beverages is prohibited statewide and considered a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Arkansas

Public consumption is prohibited statewide, and public intoxication is considered a Class C misdemeanor.

California

Public consumption is only permitted in a few select locales, including the city of Sonoma and a number of state beaches such as Carmel Beach, Paradise Cove in Malibu, and Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes.

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Colorado

In Colorado, you're allowed to drink alcohol in public areas such as state or city parks. However, there's a catch: Drinks must contain 3.2% or less alcohol by volume (or ABV). This means that you should keep your open container limited to some wine spritzers and light beers.

Connecticut

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption of alcoholic beverages is illegal in most or all districts. However, while drivers cannot drink while operating a vehicle, any passengers aged 21 or up can sip in the back seat.

Delaware

There is no statewide ban, but public drinking is illegal in most or all districts. However, like Connecticut, passengers may imbibe as long as the driver remains sober.

Florida

In the state of Florida, it is generally illegal to consume alcohol in public. However, the city of Tampa allows up to two drinks in plastic containers per person on the Tampa Riverwalk as long as they are purchased from a licensed facility between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 a.m.

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Georgia

While Georgia does not have a state-wide ban on open containers like many other states, local jurisdictions largely prohibit public drinking. Public consumption is only permitted in the city of Savannah, and, oddly enough, the North Georgia town of Dalton.

Hawaii

Public drinking is prohibited statewide, including at state parks and public beaches.

Idaho

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts.

Iowa

Public drinking is prohibited statewide in public street, highways, and sidewalks. However you can consume alcohol in public parks, as long as its beer or wine, rather than hard liquor.

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Illinois

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts. However, in Illinois there is no penalty for public drunkenness, unlike most other states.

Indiana

Indiana has no restriction on carrying open containers of alcohol on public premises. In fact, you can keep your drink in its original container, unlike in many other states without strict open container laws. However, be mindful: Local oridinaces may not allow this, and the alcohol-serving business may not either.

Kansas

Public drinking is prohibited statewide, unless being consumed at a special, permitted event held on a public street, alley, road, sidewalk, or highway.

Kentucky

Public consumption is prohibited across the state unless as a passenger in a taxi, limousine, or bus.

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Louisiana

Public drinking is only permitted in the city of New Orleans for any beverage in an open plastic container or plastic cup. Better yet? The restrictions that do exist in New Orleans--such as open containers being forbidden in moving vehicles--is suspended during Mardis Gras season.

Maine

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts unless at an event that has an off-premise catering license.

Maryland

Public consumption and open containers of alcohol is prohibited statewide. It's considered a misdemeanor and is punishable with a fine of up to $100.

Massachusetts

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption of alcohol is illegal in most or all districts. In fact, in Massachusetts, even happy hours are illegal.

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Michigan

There is no statewide ban, but public drinking is illegal in most or all districts except Royal Oak main street. Additionally, according to state law, you can consume alcohol in public parks, public places of amusement, and other publicly owned areas.

Minnesota

Minnesota has strict laws prohibiting open containers statewide. Not only is it illegal, but if you're caught with an unsealed beverage in your car or directly from a restaurant, it may be considered a felony.

Missouri

Public consumption is only permitted in Kansas City in select Entertainment Districts in the city's Central Business District.

Mississippi

Although Mississippi has had notoriously strict alcohol laws historically--they repealed prohibition in 1966, long after the rest of the country stopped in 1933--today, there is no state-wide law against public drinking and no open container laws. However, public intoxication is a crime, so you can still be arrested if you get a little too crazy.

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Montana

Public consumption is only permitted in the city of Butte (though it's prohibited between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.).

Nebraska

Although public drinking is illegal state-wide in Nebraska, a new law allows sealed containers to be purchased to-go.

Nevada

Although Nevada state law does not prohibit drinking in public, local law governs open container laws, and public drinking is illegal in many places. However, you are able to carry a drink with you on the Las Vegas Strip--as long as its in a plastic, paper, or aluminum container.

New Hampshire

There is no statewide ban, but public drinking is illegal in most or all districts, including at state properties, such as state-owned beaches.

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New Jersey

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts. However, a 2022 state law allowed for communities to individually designate outdoor areas for consuming alcohol. So far, many shore towns have gotten on board: You can now drink in public in Cape May, Atlantic City, and North Wildwood--As long as it's during the summer season.

New Mexico

No dice: Public consumption is prohibited statewide.

New York

There is no statewide ban, but public drinking is illegal in most or all districts. For example, in New York City, you're only supposed to drink outdoors if it's part of a permitted block party.

North Carolina

There is no statewide ban, but public drinking is illegal in most or all districts. However, as of 2021 individual cities and counties are allowed to create their own 'social districts' where you can drink in designated outdoor activities. So be sure to check local ordinances before you go!

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North Dakota

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts. However, public intoxication is not a crime.

Ohio

Public consumption is prohibited statewide. According to state law, you can't have any open container of alcohol on public property--meaning places that are visible, easily accessible, and open to the public. However, Dora, Ohio does have an excepton for The DORA, the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area.

Oregon

Public consumption is only permitted in the cities of Hood River and Cannon Beach.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania does not have a law against public possession of consumption of alcohol. While it is illegal in many places, you can drink in public parks (and other public spaces) in Erie.

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Rhode Island

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts. And, like many other states, you can still be arrested for public intoxication.
South Carolina
Public drinking is prohibited statewide. Don't be fooled by all the revelers in Charleston.

South Dakota

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts.

Tennessee

Public consumption is only permitted in the city of Memphis in select Entertainment Districts like Beale Street. Additionally, although local ordinances may be more restrictive, there is no state-wide ban against car passengers consuming alcohol--as long as the driver isn't.

Texas

There is no statewide prohibition against public drinking in Texas, unless you're in a state park or a local ordinance applies. But in the sprawling state, less than 20 cities have put a ban in place. That means you can drink anywhere in Fredericksburg, Arlington, and Fort Worth.

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Utah

Public consumption is prohibited statewide. Additionally, you'll most likely on find beer at major sporting events and other outdoor events in the state.

Virginia

Public consumption is prohibited statewide: You can be charged with a misdemeanor for taking even one sip of booze in public, or offering a drink to another person.

Vermont

There is no statewide ban, but public drinking is illegal in most or all districts, including in parks.

Washington

State law prohibits public alcohol consumption statewide, unless you are part of an official event that holds its own liquor license.

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Wisconsin

There is no statewide ban, but public drinking is illegal in most or all districts. However, state law does not prevent you from bringing drinks to city- and county- owned buildings and parks. Local ordinances may provide further restriction, so be sure to check the local laws before cracking that beer.

West Virginia

Public consumption is prohibited statewide.

Wyoming

There is no statewide ban, but public consumption is illegal in most or all districts.

Do your state's laws on alcohol consumption surprise you?

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This article was originally published on March 24, 2018.

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