Open Container Laws

R Street Continues Push for Relaxing Open Container Laws

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R Street has long supported relaxing open container laws as a way to both create safer drinking environments and revitalize urban spaces. R Street’s Director of State Government Affairs, Marc Hyden, who resides in Georgia, has led the charge in urging more Peach State cities to liberalize their open container laws, and he recently supported testimony in favor of a proposal to do so in Marietta, Georgia:

Over the past several years, the state of Georgia has been updating its alcohol policies to bring them in line with the rest of the country. Indeed, many Georgia cities—Alpharetta, Acworth, Canton, Duluth, Kennesaw, Powder Springs, Smyrna, Stockbridge, Savannah, etc.—have already approved open-air drinking districts, which authorize drinking in specifically designated areas.

These endeavors go hand in hand with the current national movement to permit open containers in entertainment areas…

The problem with prohibitions of open-air drinking is that they might lead to adverse public health effects. The Sport Journal — a peer-reviewed academic periodical — highlighted that some individuals binge drink before alcohol-free events so that they can maintain their buzz for the duration of the event. If these people could drink at the event, then they may not feel the urge to adopt such behavior. Instead, they could nurse their beverages more responsibly over a lengthier period of time…

Furthermore, the creation of an open-air drinking district in Marietta could bring about an economic windfall. It is not a coincidence that a host of new open-air drinking districts have developed across the state. Rather, it seems that open-air drinking districts are good for business. If they are, then relaxing unnecessarily strict alcohol ordinances will attract more development. Beyond this payoff, open-air drinking districts may lure tourists as well as conferences, festivals, concerts and other events, helping local companies thrive and increasing tax revenue…

More here.

North Carolina Lawmakers Seek a Bevy of Reforms to ABC System

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North Carolina is one of about a dozen remaining states in which the government controls the retail sales of alcohol. The state’s ABC system has been mired in scandal recently after a state audit uncovered millions in waste, which has spurred calls for reforming the state’s antiquated alcohol laws. According to the Greenville Daily Reflector, several lawmakers have introduced an omnibus reform bill with numerous proposed changes:

A bill filed in the N.C. House would dramatically revamp how the state governs liquor sales and distribution, including a provision allowing for Sunday sales. Distillers, brewers, and consumers would be among the beneficiaries of the expansive measure, modernizing a system entangled in arcane laws dating back to the end of Prohibition.

Reps. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson; James Boles, R-Moore; Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe; and Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, are primary sponsors.

Lawmakers have already introduced several items presented in Tuesday's bill, such as a move - House Bill 389 - to authorize public colleges and universities to allow the sale of alcohol at stadiums, athletic facilities, and arenas on school property, as well as a move paving the way for Sunday sales - Senate Bill 87.

The omnibus measure introduced Tuesday, H.B. 536, ABC Omnibus Regulatory Reform, would, for example, allow distillers to sell spirituous liquor directly to consumers in other states and removes a limit on sales to customers visiting one of the nearly 60 craft distilleries in the state. As it stands, customers can buy five bottles from a distillery per year. All sales now are recorded and tracked.

The bill also would allow tastings in state-run ABC stores and provides a local option for cities and counties to adjust store hours, including for Sunday sales…”

Read the rest here.

Why Georgia Cities Should Embrace Open Container Laws

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R Street has voiced support for modest expansions of open container laws (or, alternatively, open container zones) in cities as a way to spark urban renewal and allow citizens to have responsible fun outdoors. R Street’s Marc Hyden writes for Insider Advantage about why more cities in Georgia should embrace such an approach:

Anything worth doing is worth taking your time to do, according to an old proverb. While there’s a kernel of truth to this platitude, the state of Georgia apparently took this advice to the extreme. Consider this: The United States ratified the 21st Amendment to repeal Prohibition in 1933. Georgia, on the other hand, still hasn’t ratified it. But that may change soon, because Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, recently pre-filed HR 4 to formally approve the 21st Amendment.

Thankfully, this isn’t the only long-overdue alcohol regulation that is finally getting attention in Georgia. Indeed, the Peach State has been gradually liberalizing its puritanical alcohol statutes. Lawmakers have relaxed regulations on Sunday alcohol sales and on breweries and distilleries, and have enacted ordinances permitting open container districts in AlpharettaAcworthCantonDuluthSmyrnaStockbridgeSavannah, etc. These efforts coincide with the ongoing national movement to allow open-air drinking in entertainment districts across the country. Now, it appears that Kennesaw might be the next city to modernize its alcohol laws by creating an open container district. There are many reasons why it should consider such a move…

Read the rest here.

UPDATE: Kennesaw, Georgia’s city council heeded Marc Hyden’s call and has officially approved two open container districts within city limits.


Florida's Pensacola Beach Allows Open Containers of Booze

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More communities and municipalities are relaxing their open container laws and allowing residents to enjoy their libations in the open air (a trend that R Street has voiced support for). In the latest example, local officials voted against extending an ordinance that prohibited open containers on Florida's Pensacola Beach:

Despite [protests from some local business owners], commissioners voted 3 to 2 against extending the ordinance.

Opponents of extending the ordinance said it infringed on visitors' rights to enjoy public beach areas and that law enforcement already has the authority to break up fights, police shoplifting and address other criminal behaviors.

The ordinance will sunset on June 1...

More here.

It's time to allow booze at SEC college football games

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Beer and other alcohol is ubiquitous at professional sports stadiums around the country, but less so at the college level. R Street's Marc Hyden argues that the SEC should allow booze inside its stadiums on gameday--and how doing so would ultimately be a win-win on policy grounds:

According to the old maxim, “In the South, college football isn’t just a sport. It’s a religion.” Indeed, there are few things more hallowed than Southeastern Conference (SEC) football on Saturdays and church on Sundays. In fact, Sundays in the Bible Belt were once treated the same as many of today’s college athletic stadiums, where there is a strict prohibition of general alcohol sales.

And while this issue once spanned college sports across the country, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has gradually loosened its restrictions. Now it appears poised to relax them even further by allowing general alcohol sales at championship events. Yet rather than following the NCAA’s lead, SEC leadership has stood firmly opposed to the liberalization of alcohol policies, leaving its 14 schools with mostly “dry” stadiums. The SEC should reverse this blanket prohibition and leave the decision up to the local authorities...

Read the rest here.

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.