Drinking in public
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Social customs and laws on drinking alcohol in public vary significantly around the world. "Public" in this context refers to outdoor spaces such as roads, sidewalks or parks, or in a moving vehicle. Drinking in bars, restaurants or stadiums, for example, is not generally considered to be "in public" even though those establishments are open to the general public. In some countries, such as India, the United States and in larger regions, such as the Muslim world, public drinking is almost universally condemned or outlawed, while in other countries, such as Portugal, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Japan, public drinking and public intoxication is socially acceptable, although may not be entirely legal.
- 1 Controversy
- 2 By country
- 2.1 Australia
- 2.2 Austria
- 2.3 Canada
- 2.4 China
- 2.5 Czech Republic
- 2.6 Finland
- 2.7 France
- 2.8 Germany
- 2.9 Hungary
- 2.10 India
- 2.11 Laos
- 2.12 New Zealand
- 2.13 Norway
- 2.14 Poland
- 2.15 Russia
- 2.16 Spain
- 2.17 Switzerland
- 2.18 United Kingdom
- 2.19 UAE
- 2.20 United States
- 3 References
Opponents[who?] of drinking in public argue that it encourages overconsumption of alcohol and binge drinking, rowdiness and violence, and propose that people should instead drink at private businesses such as public houses, bars or clubs, where a bartender may prevent overconsumption and where rowdiness can be better controlled by the fact that one is sitting down and security or bouncers may be present. Alternatively, one may drink at home. There have been numerous recorded[which?] events of riots associated with drinking in public during big sporting events, especially football matches.
Proponents[who?] of drinking in public argue that it does not itself cause problems and rather that it is social problems that cause overconsumption and violence, pointing to countries[which?] that allow drinking in public but have low levels of associated overconsumption and violence. Proponents further argue that drinking in public helps normalize attitudes towards drinking and build a healthier drinking culture. Many[who?] argue that it is a right to drink in public.
Although details and penalties vary from state to state, drinking in public places directly outside licensed premises (and also in council-designated no alcohol zones) is illegal. Generally, possession of an open container of alcohol is sufficient proof of public drinking.
All of the New South Wales state's 152 Local Government Council City/Shire Council Rangers and Authorised Staff are allowed to use their discretion to tip out and confiscate open containers in public streets within their own Council boundary; but not arrest nor issue Fines/Infringements for this purpose, leading many to turn a 'blind eye' to these infractions to avoid conflict and fights (http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/councils-fearful-of-enforcing-alcohol-confiscation-laws-20110831-1jm28.html). NSW Police, however, have more legal options open to them, including Fines and Arrest.
In Austria, the possession of open containers of alcohol is legal by people of the legal drinking age (16 or 18 depending on which kind of beverage it is and which state you are in).
In Canada, with the exception of Quebec, possession of open containers of alcohol in public is generally a violation of provincial acts and municipal bylaws. Open liquor is not permitted except in private residences or on licensed premises. Open liquor is also illegal in parts of national and provincial parks, though this prohibition may not apply to campsites, as it is a temporary residence. For instance, Ontario Provincial Parks allow alcohol on campsites only.
In British Columbia, the penalty for possession of 'open liquor' is a fine. In Ontario, the penalty for possession of an open container or consumption of liquor in a public place is a fine (as per the Liquor Licence Act, ssec 31(2)). Those caught by law enforcement officers are forced to pour out the alcoholic beverage, after which offenders are sometimes issued a verbal warning instead of a monetary penalty.
In Quebec, laws on the consumption of alcohol in public are more relaxed than in the rest of Canada. Most notably, alcohol may be consumed in public parks during a meal.
Drinking in public is commonly accepted, although as of 2006, alcohol may only be purchased by people over 18.
In the Czech Republic, drinking in public is generally legal, but each community is entitled to restrict public drinking by ordinance. As a result of this some towns and cities, including Prague, have forbidden drinking in public in order to prevent people from disorderly conduct and begging.
In Finland, drinking in public is prohibited in built areas ("taajama"), at border crossings, or in vehicles in use for public transport such as buses or trams. The law does not apply to restaurants, pubs and other licensed premises, or to the interior of vehicles such as taxis or limousines that are in private use. Public parks or equivalent venues are also exempt, as long as the consumption of alcohol does not cause undue public disturbance. While drinking on streets and public transport is technically illegal, in practice the authorities interfere only rarely if no disturbance is caused.
The definition of a built area depends on the definition of a locality, or "taajama" in Finnish, which is a cluster of buildings with no less than 200 inhabitants, where the buildings are no more than 200 meters apart. This means that some areas within towns and cities may not fill the definition, making it legal to drink alcohol in public there, while some areas outside of towns and cities may have high enough population densities to be considered localities, therefore making public drinking illegal. Entering or leaving localities is marked by road signs along the major thoroughfares.
Public drinking in France is legal. Although it is illegal to sell alcohol to minors (under 18) it is not illegal for minors to consume alcohol in public. However local laws may ban public drinking or the purchase of alcohol in certain areas or at certain times.
The possession of open containers of alcohol and drinking in public (street, park etc.) is legal for people of the legal drinking age (16 for beer and wine; 18 for distilled spirits). Many cities forbid or restrict the consumption of alcohol in public transit or inside train stations. The BVG forbids "excessive" consumption of alcohol in the Berlin S-Bahn; violations are considered a civil and not criminal matter. The Deutsche Bahn does not forbid consumption of alcohol in regional trains.
In Hungary, drinking alcohol in public is not generally illegal but some settlement has local law to ban it and it is subject to a fine, whose amount starts at about 5000Ft.
Alcohol traditionally was generally frowned upon in India by all religious entities. Drinking in public is quite unusual on the streets but on the contrary quite usual in some areas with a bar or wine store. You could have a bunch of people drinking in one corner on the street, but you are not allowed to openly carry and consume a bottle of alcohol on the streets. Since bars and pubs shut down early in most big cities, a culture has developed where wine shops sell their liquor illegally after the designated closing time.
There is no open container law in Laos.
In New Zealand, public drinking is legal, although local authorities have power to pass bylaws declaring liquor-free zones, where liquor may be consumed on licensed premises and private property but not on the street or other public areas. Many towns now have such zones, usually covering their Central Business District. Consuming alcohol while driving a motor vehicle is legal, as long as the driver is not over the driver blood alcohol limit, and the alcohol is not consumed in a liquor-free zone. Similarly, passengers of motor vehicles are allowed to consume alcohol as long as they are not in a liquor-free zone. Sale of alcohol to intoxicated persons is illegal. Under the Summary Offences Act 1981 it is an offence to drink alcohol in public transport, aeroplanes and taxis unless the vehicle is a licensed premises. Most commercial flights as well as many ferries and trains serve alcohol on board.
Drinking in public is illegal in Norway and subject to fines. In many cities the police will primarily react if the use of alcohol is causing trouble and drinking in parks is quite common. Most officers will ask the drinker to empty the bottle without further reactions.
In Poland, drinking is illegal on streets, squares, in parks, on public transport, as well as other areas designated by municipal authorities, with fines starting at PLN 100. This does not apply to private parks.
According to the article 20.20 of the Offences Code of Russia, drinking in a place where it is forbidden by the federal law is punishable with a fine of 500 to 1500 rubles. The article 16 of the Federal Law #171-FZ "About the State Regulation of Production and Trade of Ethanol, Alcoholic and Ethanol-containing Products and about Restriction of Alcoholic Products Consumption (Drinking)" forbids drinking in almost all public places (including entrance halls, staircases and elevators of living buildings) except bars, restaurants or other similar establishments where it is permitted to sell alcoholic products for immediate consumption.
Public consumption of alcohol in Spain is subject to local regulations with different degrees of permissiveness depending on the region or city.
Public drinking in Switzerland is legal for everybody. Although Switzerland has a legal purchase age of 16 for beer and wine, and 18 for spirits (18 for both in Ticino), it is not illegal for a minor to consume alcohol in public by federal laws. But the cantons Aargau, Zürich, Solothurn and Bern have laws which make it illegal to give alcohol to minors under the federal purchase age laws (exceptions are made for parents).
Furthermore cantonal laws prohibit the consumption and/or sale of alcohol at the following public places:
- Gambling establishments (serving, consuming and selling): Bern, Lucerne, Nidwalden and Obwalden.
- Gas station (only sale): Basel-Landschaft (only spirits), Fribourg (only spirits), Geneva, Jura and Uri.
- Swimming pools (sale and consumption): Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt and St. Gallen.
- Youth Centre (sale and consumption): Basel-Landschaft and Basel-Stadt.
- Educational establishments (sale and consumption): Basel-Stadt, Jura, Schaffhausen and Zürich.
England and Wales
Drinking in public is legal in England and Wales – you may carry a drink from a public house down the street (though it is preferred that you request a plastic glass to avoid danger of breakage and because the taking of the glass could be considered an offence of Theft as only the drink has been purchased), and you may purchase alcohol at an off-licence and immediately begin drinking it outside. Separately, you may drink on aeroplanes and on National Rail trains, either purchasing alcohol or consuming your own.
In certain public places, it may be required (requested) for you to stop drinking. It is not illegal to drink in these areas, contrary to popular misconception, but, in these areas, if requested by police to stop drinking, you must (may) then stop drinking and surrender the alcohol, both open and closed containers. These are formally known as Designated Public Places Orders (DPPOs), and were allowed by The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (CJPA); they are more popularly known as 'Controlled Drinking Zones' (CDZs).
Following the election of Boris Johnson as mayor of London, the conditions of carriage on most modes of London public transportation (specifically those operated by Transport for London - buses, London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and more recently, the Emirates Air Line (cable car)) were updated to ban the carrying of open alcohol containers and the consumption of alcohol. This does not apply to non-Transport for London commuter services, including National Rail and Thames Clippers. This was supported by those who felt it would decrease antisocial behaviour, but opposed by those who argued that alcohol relieved the discomfort of a commute. The end of drinking on public transport was marked by some festivities.
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The City of Edinburgh allows the consumption of alcohol in public places but under the Edinburgh by-law, anyone drinking in public would have to stop if asked by police. In the Strathclyde region that includes Glasgow, the consumption of alcohol in public places has been illegal since 1996. Breaking this law can mean a fine. This ban was enforced due to the increase in drink-related violent crime. In the Perth & Kinross local authority the consumption of alcohol in public places is illegal in the following places: Alyth, Crieff, Kinross, Scone, Aberfeldy, Blairgowrie, Dunkeld & Birnam, Milnathort, Coupar Angus, Errol, Perth City. Drinking publicly in these areas is chargeable offence. 
In the UAE, it is against the law to be intoxicated and disorderly conduct can lead to arrest by police. Furthermore, Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol. Drunk driving is also banned, with severe penalties, including time in jail and demerit points added to the offenders' record.
Drinking in public is illegal in almost all jurisdictions in the United States, with this ban usually extending to include drinking within a moving car (related to drunk driving laws).
Laws against drinking in public are known as open container laws, as the presence of an open container of alcohol is seen as evidence of drinking in public and is far easier to witness and prove than the act of drinking.
In some places and circumstances, public alcohol consumption is accepted. This includes places such as New Orleans or Las Vegas, at some college campuses, or around sporting events – notably at a tailgate party – or when the container is inside a bag, traditionally a brown paper bag. It is important to note that drinking an alcoholic beverage from a brown paper bag in public does not make it legal. This is done because theoretically if law enforcement cannot actually see the alcohol, they cannot prove it. But other factors can give an officer enough proof that alcohol is being consumed.
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