The stigma of open liquor
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
We’re all familiar with open container laws regarding alcohol. Drinking an alcoholic beverage in public— outside of a designated drinking zone—is not only socially frowned upon, but illegal. Citizens can and do receive heavy fines for committing the crime.
Beer, wine, and spirits are all served with abundance at restaurants, concerts, festivals, and anywhere else with a liquor licence. It’s legal to drink alcohol in the privacy of your own home or other private area. But as soon as you’re outdoors, alcohol becomes strictly off-limits. It’s encouraged to enjoy a beer on a patio, but take a few more steps and you’re subject to a $230 fine.
The liquor doesn’t even have to be visible for the law to take effect. You can have a half-full bottle of booze in your backpack—perhaps being transported on the way home from a party—and still be charged if law enforcement were to find it (only searching your bag if they have reason to believe you’re hiding something).
The laws are not a deterrent, as many of us have no doubt experienced. We continue to enjoy the fireworks downtown as alcohol is poured with discretion and paranoia into Slurpee cups or sipped through opaque bags. The result is rowdy public drunkenness unaffected by open liquor laws. Generally, those who get disruptive in public areas due to alcohol will do so regardless of whether they consumed alcohol legally or not. In addition, someone can get drunk in a bar and still cause a disturbance right outside the establishment. Of course, the vast majority of people enjoying a couple of beers are not causing any trouble. It’s ridiculous that citizens are not allow to consume a substance outdoors that they can consume indoors.
In most countries outside the US and Canada, alcohol is legal to consume in public. Many tourists have been surprised or angered visiting our country to discover they can’t enjoy a cider on the beach. It’s an archaic, pointless, and unfair law. It forces responsible, legal-aged citizens to engage in tactics that should be reserved for high school kids. Quiet drinking and disruptive behaviour under the influence are two different factors, and there is no reason to assume one will frequently lead to the other. If you’re of legal age and not disturbing anybody, there’s no reason why you should be barred from bringing some beer to a picnic in the park or day at the beach.