Why Cities Should Consider Relaxing Open Container Laws

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R Street's Jarrett Dieterle and Jonathan Coppage wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post on why more cities should consider easing their open container laws to allow for public drinking. They argue that doing so is not nearly as extreme of an idea as it may sound:

Every September, thousands make their way to the District’s H Street neighborhood for the H Street Festival. The outdoor event features 10 blocks of live music, exhibits, karaoke stages, kids zones, mobile portrait studios and a fashion stage. But for an event that seemingly has everything under the sun, visitors are still forced to drink in the shade.

Aside from a “liquor garden” or beer garden, most of the alcohol consumption that takes place at the H Street Festival is required to occur inside nearby bars and apart from the rest of the festival’s activities. Most other city festivals around the country operate similarly, keeping drinking to dark interiors and away from the sunshine. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Several cities have recently relaxed their public drinking laws, and it’s time more consider following suit...

[S]igns are emerging that the pendulum may be swinging back toward more lenient outdoor drinking. In recent years, numerous cities have eased up on their public drinking restrictions, and now towns as distinct as Fort Worth, Tex., and Erie, Penn. — and many in between — allow some form of public imbibing.

Formerly sleepy suburbs and towns are trying to develop their own downtown core, to become a place and not just a collection of bedrooms. They have recruited restaurant and shops, overhauled their zoning and repaved their streets. City leaders have realized that keeping every guest of these new establishments locked up inside the bar where they bought their beer will keep the newly built town squares unnaturally empty. Seeking to to breathe life into these new, dynamic districts, towns such as Duluth, Ga., have opened up their outdoors. Relaxing drinking laws can create buzz and energy, since it helps attract both new businesses and residents and allows vendors to share customers and atmosphere in a positive-sum game, rather than a cut-throat competition to lock people up indoors...

Read the whole piece here.