Park Slope pol: Let New Yorkers drink in the street

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
Crowds of bar-goers have become a common sight outside the city’s taverns.
Reuters/Jeenah Moon

Central Brooklyn Assemblyman Robert Carroll introduced legislation on Monday to pause the state’s open container laws, as New Yorkers take to the relative safety of parks, stoops, and outdoor seating at restaurants to imbibe amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The law would be in effect for the duration of New York’s state of emergency in sections of the state where bars and restaurants are operating at reduced capacity, and would allow adults to consume alcoholic beverages wherever they please.

“Covid-19 is changing the way we eat and drink,” Carroll said. “It is time we do away with New York’s anachronistic open-container laws.”

Carroll argued that the state’s enforcement of open-container laws are ripe with disparities, wherein wealthier New Yorkers are often given a pass while cops crack down on younger people of color. 

“In New York, the police and others turn a blind eye if the imbiber is drinking a glass of wine while listening to the New York Philharmonic on the great lawn in Central Park,” Carroll said. “But if you’re a young person on the beach at Coney Island drinking a Nutcracker or a beer with friends you can get a ticket. That’s hypocrisy.” 

The bill, which does not yet have a co-sponsor in the State Senate, comes as New Yorkers have moved almost all aspects of socializing outdoors — including drinking — where the risk of contracting coronavirus is far less, yet not nonexistent. 

In the months before restaurants and bars were allowed to move tables and chairs onto sidewalks and they were only allowed to offer alcoholic drinks to-go, people enjoying a curbside cocktail was a common sight in bar-heavy neighborhoods like Williamsburg, with some crowds outside bars growing large enough to draw the ire of the governor. 

Carroll argues that allowing bars to sell drinks to-go but punishing customers who drink them on the street is illogical.

“Where do we think these alcoholic beverages are being consumed?” he said. 

While the current text of the bill allows for it to expire after the state of emergency is lifted, Carroll says he hopes the governor extends it permanently. 

“If the sky doesn’t fall, I would hope he makes it permanent,” he said.