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Should it be legal for New Yorkers to drink in public?

One group is pushing for regulated drinking in NYC's parks and green spaces.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

Things were hard in 2020, but being able to order grab-and-go cocktails from our favorite restaurants and bars was one of the few silver linings. New Yorkers were able to head to a takeout window at their local bar to pick up a bottled cocktail for a lovely walk or picnic in the park.

Unfortunately, that stopped in June when the Covid-19 state of emergency that allowed for it ended. But maybe, that's not the last we've seen of to-go alcoholic drinks—right now, the NYC Nightlife Advisory Board is pushing to legalize public drinking in order to strengthen NYC's nightlife scene.

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In its latest nightlife report released on July 19, the Nightlife Advisory Board pitched the idea of "nightlife beyond bars and clubs." By opening city-owned buildings after hours for rehearsal and performance space, including public libraries, city nightlife could become richer and more varied. Its last idea under this umbrella would be to allow informal gatherings to occur in parks where drinking and dancing could occur. 

"New Yorkers need affordable options for all kinds of nightlife. In most global cities people can gather informally in squares and parks to drink with friends and even dance to the rhythm of impromptu concerts," the report states.  "Drinking in the public space and dancing anywhere in the city should be regulated but not prohibited."

The New York Post, which first reported on the recommendation, spoke with Andrew Rigie, the NAB’s chairman and executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, who said this might boost quality of life.

"This is one of 15 important recommendations that were developed pre-pandemic, and if done properly, identifying public spaces where people can socialize with alcohol, dance and have cultural programming could improve quality of life and attract visitors, and is worth considering," he told the Post.

That being said, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio told the Post that the mayor and the City Council would review the report and its recommendations but made it clear that the recommendations are purely the Nightlife Advisory Board's and not the city's.

It's likely there would be some pushback on this idea since public drinking and rowdy partying in Washington Square Park has been in the news lately. The Post interviewed residents near the park about legalizing public drinking and they mostly hated the idea.

"Even when they have good music and entertainment, once these people are drinking, they don’t want to leave, they don’t want to stop," said Al Rosario, a doorman of Meylan’s park-adjacent building. "It would be so hard to control. … You’re only going to start a fire here."

What do you think? Should public drinking be legalized?

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