Police usually seem to look the other way when it comes to people drinking alcohol at the beach and on the grass at the Pritzker Pavilion during concerts. But last Saturday, I got a ticket for having a beer on the sand at Montrose Beach. So what’s the official policy here: Can we or can’t we BYOB? Is it just up to the discretion of the officer?
There is a sizable difference between what you see happen all the time and what is legal. Chicago’s Municipal Code prohibits bringing alcohol into any public park, playground or beach, and drinking alcohol “on the public way” (any sidewalk, street, road, highway, alley or similar thoroughfare). Exceptions are allowed for sidewalk or beach cafés that hold the proper permits, of course. (And be careful with your “pre-game” routine; entering or staying at a public park, playground or beach while intoxicated is also illegal.) The Cook County Forest Preserve allows alcohol at its facilities and parks as long as you are over 21 and you’re not tippling within 50 feet of a road, parking area or entrance. The Forest Preserve also has some areas that are specifically alcohol-free (listed at fpdcc.com). Chicago Park District parks, which include city beaches, allow alcoholic beverages if you have a “picnic permit” (application available at chicagoparkdistrict.com) or are within a designated area (near one of the beachside bars or restaurants). Millennium Park green-lights alcohol in the Pritzker Pavilion and on the Great Lawn during events and an hour after, the city says, “as long as guests are orderly and respectful.”
Ken Levinson is a child injury lawyer at the Chicago injury law firm Joseph, Lichtenstein & Levinson. Send your legal queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.