12 States Where It’s Legal to Drink in Public (And What to Drink There)

July 11, 2018

By Aaron Goldfarb, July 11, 2018

There’s an old joke about it being legal to drink publicly in New York City, so long as you’re willing to pay the “cover charge.” The cover charge, of course, being the $25 fine you’ll incur if caught. Alas, even if it’s pretty easy to get away with drinking in public in liberal New York—with or without getting a ticket—it’s not technically legal. Luckily, though, there are a surprising amount of locations around the United States where you can drink in public completely legally.

Las Vegas, Nevada

What you should drink: Whatever you were comped

Las Vegas is the kind of place where visitors simply assume everything is legal. And, well, it kinda is. Open plastic containers are fine throughout the 24-hours-a-day-drinking town of Las Vegas and neighboring Clark County where the Strip is located. That’s so long as you’re not within 1,000 feet of a church, synagogue, school or hospital. And really, who wants to pound watery rum and cokes by those places any how?

The French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana

What you should drink: Hurricanes

Like Las Vegas, public drinking in New Orleans is mostly legal—though, again, only in plastic cups specifically meant for outside use. There’s even drive-thrus offering served-in-styrofoam daiquiris to go. Likewise, though the cops take a lax attitude toward public drinking, it’s technically only legal in the French Quarter where Bourbon Street is located. Amusingly, 18-year-olds can drink in NOLA, so long as they’re with their parents. Which is even better, ’cause then dad might foot the bill for those Hurricanes.

Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee

What you should drink: Silky O’Sullivan’s Diver, a cocktail in a gallon bucket

In many cities where you can drink in public, you can only drink in a single neighborhood. In Memphis, it’s a single street, running about two miles from the Mississippi River to East Street. The tourist-heavy area—both a National Historic Landmark and officially declared the “Home of Blues” by Congress—features scads of blues clubs that, in many cases, date back to the history of the genre. Public drinking became officially legal there in the late-1970s in an effort to boost the economy.

The Savannah Historic District in Savannah, Georgia

What you should drink: A to-go cup of just about anything

It would be hard to argue against Savannah being the country’s top public drinking city. While Bourbon Street gets all the buzz, it’s less sloppy in gorgeous Savannah. There, a patron can pay the bill at just about any bar or restaurant, while asking for the remainder of their drink to be put into a “to-go” cup. The to-go cup is, in fact, such a totem of the charming southern city that on New Year’s Eve, instead of a glittery ball dropping, a plastic cup goes up.

Power and Light District in Kansas City, Missouri

What you should drink: Something from Boulevard Brewing Co.

In 2017 Kansas governor Sam Brownback signed a “common consumption” bill, which allows for people to publicly drink in certain outdoor areas. One is this nine-block downtown district—opened in 2007—where restaurants, bars and stores circle a car-free area and visitors are allowed to roam from spot to spot with beverage in hand.

Michael Kiser, Good Beer Hunting

Indianapolis, Indiana

What you should drink: Pounder cans from Sun King Brewing

For such a large city, it’s strange how little buzz Indianapolis’s laissez-faire drinking culture receives. Maybe that’s because people don’t think of Indy as a party town and, thus, don’t feel encouraged to walk around slugging booze. That all changed a bit, however, when the city held the Super Bowl in 2012 and the city actually promoted the legalities of open consumption—many locals never even knew they could have been sidewalk sluggin’ all along.

Various Cities in Alabama

What you should drink: Anything from Good People Brewing Co.

Believe it or not, bible beating ’Bama has quickly become one of the country’s most friendly places for drinking in public. The cities of Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile all have special outdoor entertainment districts which allow for open containers. Not bad, considering the state didn’t even have a brewery as recently as 2007.

Fredericksburg, Texas

What you should drink:  A German brew or a German-inspired Texas one like Shiner

This small city (around 11,000 folks) north of San Antonio, has long been a German community which might make its allowance of public drinking less of a surprise. Though home to many Hill Country wineries, Fredericksburg is the rare city where one is allowed to B.Y.O. open container of B into public.

Butte, Montana

What you should drink: Headframe Spirits Neversweat Whiskey

In 2013 Butte city council banned public drinking between 2AM and 8AM, handing out $500 fines if caught. No worries, you can still get blotto the other 18 hours of the day for free in this rowdy, mining town.

Hood River, Oregon

What you should drink: Beer from any of the area’s top breweries like Logsdon Farmhouse Ales

While far less known as a party spot than many of these other locales, Hood River is not to be ignored. About an hour’s drive east from Portland, on the Columbia River, this outdoor-loving area is generally friendly to public consumption. Unfortunately, however, that might be a reason it’s also the binge drinking capital of the state.

Erie, Pennsylvania

What you should drink: Beer from nearby Voodoo Brewery

One of the stranger places you can legally drink in public is Erie, Pennsylvania, specifically in its 70-block downtown “entertainment” district. This lakeside city located halfway between Buffalo and Cleveland may have a casino and water park, but it ain’t exactly a well-known drinking destination. In fact, the Rust Belt city is fairly rough and tumble. Perhaps one reason why City Council has continually tried to get stricter laws on the book—to little luck.

In Your Car in Mississippi

What you should drink: Preferably nothing

Mississippi is remarkably the final state in the union where you can still have a drink while driving. Well, OK!

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