Las Vegas, Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Times Square in New York City on New Years, are all places where a person can walk around with an open container of alcohol. The question many people ask is: can you carry an alcoholic drink in a plastic beer mug while walking down your city’s main street? The answer depends on the open container laws in your state and local community.
Open containers laws serve a number of goals. Most notably, open container laws seek to maintain the quality of life for community residents and business by preventing people from being drunk in public in hopes to avoid rowdy behavior. It also seeks to prevent motor vehicle accidents by outlawing the consumption of alcohol by drivers and passengers.
Not every state or municipality, however, prohibits drinking and carrying alcohol in public places, such as sidewalks and city parks. For example, a few notable tourist destinations, like Las Vegas and New Orleans, do not have open container laws.
So what are open container laws? An open container law prohibits people from consuming alcohol in public. The exact definition of a “public place” depends on your state or city’s laws, and how courts have interpreted those laws. Each state has a different interpretation of what constitutes as a public place. Therefore, depending on the particular laws and court rulings of the respective state, violations of open container laws could occur when a person consumes or possesses an open container of alcohol while on a public sidewalk, inside a parked vehicle, on school property, outside on the front steps of an apartment building and/or in a residential neighborhood or park (to name a few public places).
In 1998, Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century to give states a financial incentive for restricting drinking in motor vehicles. State that fail to enact open container laws lose a portion of federal highway construction funds.
Many wonder if there are any open container law exceptions. Currently, there are only seven states that lack open container laws that prohibit consuming alcohol in public.The city of New Orleans lacks strict open container laws, but it does require people who drink alcohol on sidewalks and streets to do so only from plastic cups. This Mardi Gras destination also prohibits drinking alcohol in a parking lot. Similarly, the city of Las Vegas permits public consumption of alcohol from a glass container on all but a few holidays, like New Years Eve and July 4th.
The main reason that some locales do not have open containers laws is to promote tourism by encouraging tourists to support local businesses by drinking at bars, restaurants, hotels, and in specific districts, such as New Orleans’ French Quarter and the Las Vegas Strip.
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