Manhattan Just Quietly Decriminalized Public Drinking, And That's a Good Thing

You don’t have to be this guy anymore. Photo by Getty Images
You don’t have to be this guy anymore. Photo by Getty Images

It’s summer. You’re hot. You’re thirsty. You surreptitiously crack open a Miller High Life tall boy in Central Park—right in front of a cop. Don’t worry. Thanks to new borough-wide policy, you probably won’t get arrested. Cheers!


Welcome to Gizmodo’s Happy Hour. Substance abuse for nerds.

Today, Manhattan’s district attorney announced that the borough won’t arrest people for public consumption of alcohol unless it poses a threat to safety. New Yorkers who drink in public on the island might get a summons and be ordered to pay a fine, but what this announcement really sounds like is that you’re more likely to get a warning than anything else. (Apparently the city also said the same thing about public urination, which I suppose makes sense—what goes in has to come out.)

Decriminalizing public drinking is a huge step forward in a city like New York. When it comes to enjoying an adult beverage outside the confines of a specially licensed facility, the US is puritanical to a fault. Only a handful of cities allow public drinking, and many of those are in special “entertainment zones” like the Las Vegas Strip, where—to be honest—it’s not that fun to drink in public at all. Great cities around the world allow residents and visitors to freely imbibe at parks and on beaches. And they’re better places for it.

It does seem like many US cities are finding more ways to allow responsibly drinking adults to enjoy a few cocktails outside of the traditional bar and restaurant environment. Just look at the explosion of family-friendly beer gardens modeled after the pubs of Europe, where kids are encouraged to tag along with their parents as they down a pint or two. Chilling out about public drinking might actually allow parents to hang in a park with their kids while enjoying some wine. It seems particularly cruel to not allow consumption of booze in a public space in Manhattan, a place where most people don’t have backyards.

It’s also smarter for cities to employ these kinds of policies that allow police officers to go after the perpetrators of violent crime instead of the regular people who commit these low-level offenses. NYPD seems to be particularly fond of ticketing public drinkers, writing 124,498 summonses in 2011 for drinking in public, more than any other offense. That’s a lot of people who probably just had a beer in their hands, or were possibly sipping it from the skull of a fake baby. Now NYPD can focus those efforts elsewhere.

The next step, of course, is decriminalizing weed. As The Observer notes, Brooklyn’s district attorney made a similar statement about marijuana in 2014; the borough won’t arrest people for smoking or possession. So should you feel the urge to toke some ganj al fresco, just jump on the L.


[Manhattan DA via The Observer]

Contact the author at and follow her at @awalkerinLA


10-15 years ago, before Bromageddon, the Bropocalypse, the Douchenado, or whatever you like to call the commandeering of NYC, particularly Manhattan, by rampant throngs of brunch sucking culture killing loud obnoxious millennials, responsible public drinking might have worked.

I was here then. I’m here now.

And now I predict 12 solid months of SantaCon/St. Paddy’s Day if the law changes. Hell, most of the backward hat asshats that have taken over the city in the last 10 years have been ignoring the open drink law since the very day mummy and daddy dropped off their futon and drove back to Brohio.

I’ve watched my entire block go from a neighborhood of familiar faces; New Yorkers, teachers, artists, musicians, etc., to a revolving door campus for a never ending stream of amateur hour drunken idiots, who have singlehandedly closed all the shops and businesses that made this a vital neighborhood, and turned it into a playground for the coddled and inconsiderate.

Landlords have literally cut back doors into ground floor apartments and built outdoor decks and roof decks, so that the millennial army can have their precious parties...for all to hear.

Now they can pregame right on the street. Hoo fucking ray.

You know why all these obnoxious white kids are drinking themselves stupid 7 nights a week? It’s to dull the pain of the very fact that they don’t actually fit in here. They don’t really even want to be here. They want to be back in Safetyville USA, with mommy and daddy and iHop and Chipotle and Panera and Subway. First they tried bringing all those shitty places to the city, to make the adjustment more bearable. But that didn’t work. So they drink. And live 6 to an apartment, to further the dorm experience for as long as possible.

You know what? Let’s just throw a dome over the whole thing and call it Mall of Bromerica.