Drinking in Public

Drinking in public

Social customs and laws on drinking alcohol in public vary significantly around the world. In some countries, such as the United States and the Muslim world, public drinking is almost universally condemned or outlawed, while in other countries, such as New Zealand and Japan, public drinking and public intoxication are legal (although local often authorities have power to pass bylaws declaring liquor-free zones).

Opponents 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.

Proponents of drinking in public argue that it does not itself cause problems and rather that it is social problems that cause over consumption and violence, pointing to countries 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 argue that it is a right to drink in public.

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 it is tolerated, such as 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.

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