That’s Illegal, Right?
You’ve seen that guy drifting around downtown that drinks from the suspicious brown paper bag. Everyone knows what he’s got in there.
Your first instinct says, “that’s illegal and someone should do something about it.” However, statistically speaking, he probably isn’t breaking the law by drinking in public.
Under Texas Law, unless the city petitions the TABC to prohibit it, you can possess and consume alcohol in public.
Where Can the City Prohibit?
Upon a review of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s website, the Commission attempts to clarify a very common misperception of the alcohol law and states, “Public consumption of alcoholic beverages is only prohibited where a city has specifically made it illegal.”
According to the Alcohol Beverage Code, a city may petition for the TABC to prohibit public consumption within its Central Business District. The CBD is defined as a compact and contiguous geographical area of a municipality in which at least 90 percent of the land is used or zoned for commercial purposes and that is the area that has historically been the primary location in the municipality where business has been transacted.
Essentially, the CBD is the concentrated area of “downtown.”
Has My City Taken This Privilege Away?
Most likely, your city hasn’t stripped you of your privilege to have a beer on a sidewalk because as of this date, the TABC only lists 23 cities as having filed for this restriction. If you follow the links, you’ll see their petitions including maps identifying their Central Business District.
Amarillo, Claude, College Station, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Farmersville, Giddings, Groveton, Houston, Hubbard, Jefferson, McAllen, Rosenberg, San Angelo, San Antonio, San Marcos, Shamrock, Sinton South Padre Island, Taylor, Timpson, & Vernon.
Does This Mean Party Time?
Just like any good thing, someone is going to come along and mess it up for the rest of us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”
It isn’t difficult for a city to file the petition to prohibit public consumption, and if it is proper order and cites that it is a risk to public health/safety, then the TABC shall (must) grant it “without further consideration.”
If you do decide to engage in any of the above activity, be prepared to suffer the wrath if you take it too far or do not comply with all applicable laws. You should also be mindful of the times that consumption is allowed in your city. (Standard vs Extended Times)
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Criminal Defense Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479