Open container laws exist to regulate or prohibit open containers of alcohol in certain places, such as sidewalks, parks and cars. This law also regulates where people are able to consume alcohol. States control these laws and not by the federal government. Therefore, these laws vary from state to state, so there can be some confusion surrounding them.

How-to Navigate Open Container Laws: Understand the Rules

Public Places

Most parts of the U.S. do not allow having an open container of alcohol in a public place. This also applies to drinking out of an open container of alcohol as well. However, there are 24 states that do not have statutes around drinking alcohol in public places. The thing that can get very confusing is what actually defines a ‘public place’. Unfortunately, the definition of this term is not always clear. This can make open container laws difficult to understand. Typically, private spaces are those which are open to the public. These include bars, restaurants and stadiums.


Open container laws are not always strictly enforced. In some cases, open containers may be allowed in ‘public areas’ when these areas are being used for semi-private events. You may find this type of scenario most often in downtown areas. Examples of this could be street fairs, holiday events, and sporting events like tailgating parties.

State and City Laws

There are public places in the United States that allow open containers. For example, Hood River, Oregon does not have any law prohibiting open containers. Indiana as a state does not have any of these laws either. Here, you can walk outside with an alcoholic drink, as long as you have it in the original container.

Other areas have open container laws that have many exclusions. For instance, Mobile, Alabama allows open plastic containers as long as they have a commercially printed name or logo of a designated licensee. Tampa, Florida lets people have two drinks per person in an open container. The rule states that these drinks must have been bought on the Tampa Riverwalk. They must also have been bought from certain location between the hours of 11am to 1am. The historic area of Savannah, GA, it is legal to have one alcoholic drink as long as it is in a plastic container smaller than 16 oz. However, the rest of the city does not allow open containers.

As you can see, laws around drinking alcohol in public areas vary widely around the US. It is helpful to know the laws in your area, or the place you are visiting, so that you do not risk breaking the law. No matter what the law is, make sure that you are drinking responsibly.