Can I Have an Open Container at the Beach?

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Memorial Day is a holiday that most of us celebrate with family and friends. The kids are out of school and we are able to spend time with them one-on-one. Maybe you plan to bar-b-que, maybe you plan to go out of town for the long weekend, or maybe you plan to spend time with friends on the beach. No matter what your plans are, the key to a successful holiday is ensuring you are safe.

Are you considering bringing beer to the beach? Where do you plan to enjoy your holiday? Your house? Hotel room? At a friend’s house? Or on the beach itself? You need to be mindful when choosing your beachfront refreshment that possession of an open alcoholic beverage container could be a crime.

Florida Statute Section 316.1936(1)(a) defines an open container as “any container of alcoholic beverage which is immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken.” This definition comes from a traffic statute, specifically Florida Statutes Section 316.1936(2), which is designed to prohibit any person from “possess[ing] an open container of an alcoholic beverage or consume an alcoholic beverage while operating a vehicle in the state or while a passenger in or on a vehicle being operated in the state.” Further, under Florida Statute 316.1936, it is also illegal “to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage or consume an alcoholic beverage while seated in or on a motor vehicle.”

It may surprise you to find that this statute does not address much regarding your refreshment choices on the beach. Actually, the regulation of most beach activities falls to local ordinance. A county or municipality can set more restrictions on the consumption of alcohol than those already in the open container statute.

Let us share an example of how this operates with you. For purposes of example we will use Panama City, Florida. Panama City Beach has a local ordinance that prohibits the consumption of alcohol on the beach during the month of March. Local ordinances can be very selective in the behavior they regulate. If you are truly concerned about whether you can drink beer on the beach, your best choice is to use your own good judgement and should you have more questions to call the local police department or sheriff’s office and ask about the local rules.

Do not hesitate to contact us know your questions on this or any other issue. We are you local attorneys here to help you.