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The Ontario alcohol laws are quite draconian by international standards. It's almost like Ontario never really got over Prohibition and still maintains an almost puritan view of drinking to this day. Public drinking is banned throughout the USA too but at least the bars and clubs in New York City aren't forced to have last call at 1:30 am - and Toronto fancies itself a "world class" city? I don't know of any world-class city I've been to where the nightlife gets cut short that early.

I suspect the problem is slightly different from the usual collective action problem. I'd be willing to bet that the number of middle-class, university educated (yes, and white) people who have been charged (or, more likely, ticketed) in the last decade for decanting a bottle of chardonay (or a couple of brewskis) at a picnic on the Toronto Islands is pretty close to zero.

On the other hand, the people who probably have been charged/ticketed likely fall into one of two groups (a) people who were both drunk or disorderly and drinking in public, (b) underage drinkers - who might drink in public (say, in a park) because they can't drink in bars or at home, (c) or people who attract, shall we say "undue", attention from the police, maybe the homeless, or someone guilty of DWB - figure it out - during Caribana. The first group probably should be charged/ticketed, the second group probably shouldn't be, but legalizing public drinking doesn't do anything for them, since they shouldn't be drinking in the first place (and, in any event, they're underage, so who cares what they think), and the third group, well, they're ticketed precisely because they lack political pull.

Collectively, there isn't likely to be much of a lobby for the people actually affected by the prohibition on drinking in public, because for the people with political pull, it's been de facto legalized.

CBBB,

You should have seen Ontario 20 years ago. 1:00 am closing time. Can't buy booze on Sundays (or after 6:00). No credit cards at the liquor store. I can still remember when liquor stores didn't put their products on shelves, but kept them in the back and you had to order from a list.

In fairness, the 2:00 am closing time mirrors that in Quebec (which has traditionally been the wild child of Canadian liquor laws), so we're not complete barbarians. And, it's not as if you can't get a drink in Toronto after 2:00 if you're so inclined.

I used to be a big fan of the 2 am closing time. Then it passed and all that happened was people went out for the same amount of time, just later. I remember a bar owner talking about how their expenses went up and income stayed flat. In some ways a 1 am closing time is a collective action problem. People would like to stay out until the end of the evening. By making it earlier you improve bar efficency (open fewer hours) and help coordinate the times that people are out. It's also pretty good for making it less likely that bars will interfere with work the next day.

I don't know if these reasons are compelling next to choice; they seem to be metrics on different scales. But I have a hard time seeing the 2 am close as a major hardship

Ontario’s conservative party leader Tim Hudak is proposing reforming the province’s alcohol distribution system. He believes in "increasing choice", and that the Ontario government should begin "treating people like adults". Yet easing the ban on drinking in a public place is not on the table, even though that, too, would be one way to treat people like adults, as well as giving people choice about when and where to drink. The question is: why?

Drinking in Public goes along with the "No Evidence of Service" law, which means bars have to clean up within 1 hour of closing time. It is there to prevent make sure bars keep their surroundings and their neighbourhoods clean, orderly and peaceful.

My hometown now as a Bar Strip downtown where the sidewalks have been expanded and the pubs/restaurants have sidewalk patios, which are completely legal.

The other problem is proof. It is easier to prove that a person had an open container at a particular time then that they were intoxicated. So if you are a drunk surrounded by your empties on a park bench, it's the containers that are easier to use against you.

On Demographics, Ontario has slightly more Protestants than Catholics and of those Protestants, the majority are of the United Church, Presbyterian Church and Baptist Church, all of whom have a Temperance history, the United Church most of all due to our Methodist parentage. The vast majority of United Church congregations to this day will not permit alcohol on premises nor allow their halls to be used for a Special Occasion Permit (to serve alcohol).

CBBB,

If London (UK) is not a world-class city, then there are none. Yet, if you are not in a dance club (or a strip club, or perhaps a hotel bar), then it is pretty challenging to get served a drink after 10:45pm.

On the other hand, it is distressingly easy to be served, like, five drinks between 5pm and 6pm. And earlier. When visiting my company's offices in the City, I used to see drinkers spilled out onto the street what seemed like all day; yet by 8pm the same streets were deserted. The practice is to pound down as many drinks as you can on an empty stomache, and then stagger onto the Tube home, or elsewhere for more drinking. (And I might add: colleagues take no account of the fact that you arrived on a red-eye that morning when they offer their hospitality.)

So, although I resent being unable to drink wine with my picnic in the park without breaking the law, I invite you to consider the possibility that Ontario's alcohol regime is not in every conceivable respect unremittingly evil.

How rigorously is the drinking in public law enforced? I regularly drink in public parks (e.g., a bottle of wine at the beach watching the sunset, a beer or two while playing slow-pitch softball, etc.). The most enforcement I have seen is police asking for the drinks to be put in a plastic cup instead of the can or bottle. Although i have witnessed plenty of police enforcement for people (not people with me) who are drunk and disorderly in a public place.

Normally we would suppose that legalization = normalization, in that removing criminality makes it OK. But for things that have long been criminal, some assume legalization will elicit extreme behavior, and produce UK-style public drunkenness, glassing, etc., and those who fear that will easily organize. Consider the decriminalization of marijuana—while many people may be unconcerned, a small number of vocal people could easily defeat such a move.

Then there is the issue of visible cost. For marijuana and other things, you can persuade some people that there are costs in terms of public resources, and making the state slightly more intrusive and repressive. But what are the visible costs of a ban on public drinking? We don’t see mass arrests of drinkers (other than drunk driving, a special type of public drinking) or courts crammed with late-night drunks. In terms of cognitive bias and policy, there’s no salient downside.

At least in BC, (in Vancouver), public drinking is regularly checked and enforced. There's a great campaign which have just started in BC called Campaign for culture which advocates for the decreased restriction on alcohol in BC but it seems that public drinking is also out on their agenda. I can see several reason why it is the way it is:

With regards to Vancouver, allowing public drinking will mean that streets will be cleaner of bottles and cans being littered, creating a better environment for both the tourist and the residents in the area, aiding the real estate and tourism industry. Also, Alcoholism is a big problem, especially in DTES area (a much more complex problem and I would rather not generalize to this specific area but here goes.) and making public drinking illegal actually creates more room for police to intervene especially when many residents of DTES chooses to drink high alcohol content liquid (such as mouthwash) to get drunk in the middle of the day creating possible public disturbance and give police more power to protect these people's lives (alcohol poisoning.)
But again, I can see the point of why it might be a good idea to stop the ban public drinking and I am open to more suggestions. I do also believe that the culture (especially Hockey-beer relationship and the riots - specific to Vancouver) in Canada may play a role in this rule being implemented.

Bob Smith,

Just a minor correction, the closing time in Quebec is 3:00AM[1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_call_(bar_term)#Canada

Viet: "allowing public drinking will mean that streets will be cleaner of bottles and cans being littered" - I don't really see this. But it's interesting that, in BC, because there are deposits on just about every beverage container, there are far fewer bottles and cans littered than just about anywhere else in Canada.

Joel W "How rigorously is the drinking in public law enforced?"

When in Soweto, we asked our tour guide "Can we take this beer out of the tavern?" We were told "yes, you can." It turns out that this is an example of what some of here at WCI call "the many meanings of can." Do I have the physical capacity to take this beer out of the tavern? Yes, I can. If I take this beer out of the tavern, will anything bad happen to me? No, it won't, so I can take it out in that sense too. Is it actually legal to take the beer out of the tavern? No, it isn't so in that sense I can't.

@ Frances,

how much is the deposit on glass bottles, cans, plastic bottles (do you have those at all?)

Anybody with some hard, citeable evidence on the litter density vs deposit?

Evidence from New York suggesting deposits are effective here here also this interesting analysis suggesting that bottle deposit laws reduce petty crime.

Determinant: "It is easier to prove that a person had an open container at a particular time then that they were intoxicated."

That was the case decades ago when the laws against drinking in public were first put in place. With modern breathalyzer technology, it is much harder to make the case that it is hard to prove that people are intoxicated.

If drunk and disorderly conduct is the problem, arrest people for being drunk and disorderly. Don't make responsible drinkers into law breakers.

jnj,

I stand corrected, I wonder if that's a recent phenomenon (i.e., within the last 15 years or so)? Shows you how long its been since I was inclined to drink at 3:00 in the morning.

C

"The most enforcement I have seen is police asking for the drinks to be put in a plastic cup instead of the can or bottle."

Which is the police way of not enforcing it, while maintaining their due respect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2fV-_eiKxE

"Also, Alcoholism is a big problem, especially in DTES area (a much more complex problem and I would rather not generalize to this specific area but here goes.) and making public drinking illegal actually creates more room for police to intervene especially when many residents of DTES chooses to drink high alcohol content liquid (such as mouthwash) to get drunk in the middle of the day creating possible public disturbance and give police more power to protect these people's lives (alcohol poisoning.)"

Yeah, but I've seen the Downtown East Side - can't say the ban on public drinking has done much for the area (any more than the ban on heroin, crack, prostitution, well, you get the drift).

One side effect of later drinking hours specific to downtown Toronto is that chucking out time used to correspond to the last subway time. Not true any more. You have to actually (horrors! :)) pay attention to the time if you want to go home on the subway.

Jim,

Although the TTC does have all night buses running along the main routes

thanks, Frances !

Dresden is open all night,
the strategic trolley lines are also running all night.

Booze is ok in public places. Only drawback, too much glass bottle debris. Apparently 8 c deposit, that would be 0.1 Canadian, is not high enough.
Jacking it up to 3x would probably help, but since we are living in a bottle deposit union with more orderly places .... : - )

And with Kevlar in the bike tires, it is not such a problem.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/gallery/2013/jan/29/immigration-britain-ministers-gallery#/?picture=403157094&index=16

Determinant: "It is easier to prove that a person had an open container at a particular time then that they were intoxicated."

That was the case decades ago when the laws against drinking in public were first put in place. With modern breathalyzer technology, it is much harder to make the case that it is hard to prove that people are intoxicated.

If drunk and disorderly conduct is the problem, arrest people for being drunk and disorderly. Don't make responsible drinkers into law breakers.

Not applicable when a person doesn't have a car. The only way drivers are forced to take breathalyzer tests is that their choices are:

(a) take the test, prove that they are under the legal limit and get off
(b) get busted for being over the limit
(c) refuse the test and get their license suspended and get busted for refusal as they are operating a motor vehicle and have a duty of care.

When a person is not operating a deadly contraption, aka motor vehicle and is just standing in a park, they cannot be compelled to give a breath sample without a warrant. There is no forfeiture of the need for a warrant by the duty of care.

So without the breathalyzer, we are back proof by open containers.

In Savannah, Georgia (the old part of the city is absolutely beautiful, BTW) I believe you can have a beer in public, as long as it's in the 'blessed' plastic cup (which can be obtained and filled at local establishments). Drunk and disorderly is, of course, still illegal. I think they allow this because it was a loosing battle trying to prevent tourists from walking around with their beers on a warm Georgia evening.

Determinant: if you don't move in a public place, the Man can ask you to do so. If you refuse, then you are guilty of "refus d'obtempérer" (failure to obey? I don't the exact English term) and they can proceed on whatever test they want. It is of dubious legal validity but arguing constitutionnal rights with two armed men is rarely a winning short-term proposition.

The feasibility of public drinking depends on the general drinking culture. Here (QC), like in Latin Europe,we learn to drink very early at the family table, not hidden in some backyard shed. We don't need to drink fast. My nephews all learned that diluted "daddy juice" is to be consumed with food in the company of other people while having long talk. What they call "uncle talk" is rather boring for an 8-year and rarely conducive to associate wine with unrestrained behavior. My oldest nephews are now nearing 20 and show no signs of going to glass anyone.
My college is the only one in the province to house both anglos and francos students in the same building. Most of the anglos come from the very religiously conservative Lower North Shore. The contrast between both groups during friday evening parties is sociologically interesting. FAr less binge drinking and public intoxication among french than anglo students.

Just to be clear, though, in Ontario, there are two separate offenses. One is unlawful possession or consumption (i.e., public possession or consumption), the other is public intoxication. So clearly Ontario contemplated that you one can possess or consume alcohol in public without being intoxicated and, conversely, that you could be intoxicated in public without consuming alcohol in public (a self-evidence proposition to anyone in downtown Kingston early on a Friday or Sunday morning).

So it isn't clear how one act is particularly meaningful evidence of the other. If public consumption is only useful as a means of establishing public drunkeness, it wouldn't be a separate offense. And if public consumption only establishes an evidentiary presumption of public intoxication, it probably wouldn't withstand constitutional scrutiny, since the link between public consumption and public intoxication is tenuous.

(Also, I'm not sure the search and seizure provisions of the Charter would require a warrant in the context of a public drunkeness charge - because an accused person is only liable for a fine, rather than inprisonment - a court might characterize it as a regulatory offense, which are generally entitled to less protection from search and seizure. That's why the CRA can compel you to turn over your records without a warrant in a tax audit. Not that I know of any caselaw on point).

In any event, let's be honest, no one would have any trouble establishing the drunkeness of someone who's sufficiently drunk to get themselves arrested ("Q: Officer, how did you know the accused was intoxicated? A: Well, he was slurring his speech and yelling. He was stumbling all over the street and couldn't stand up straight. He reeked of booze. He might have wet himself. When he woke up in the jail cell the next day he had a wicked hangover, and complained about it to no ends. Oh, and he puked on me." You wouldn't need a breathalyzer.

Interestingly, the police can't arrest you without a warrant for public consumption of alcohol and can only arrest you without a warrant for public intoxication, if it is neccesary for your safety. This probably explains why the police don't sit outside bars tossing drunks into a paddy-wagon at closing time.

We ban public consumption for the same reason that liquor and beer stores used to prevent people from seeing the goods before they bought them, or why LCBO bags used to be plain paper bags, in our Puritan past we wanted to keep alcohol consumption as a private sinful activity to be shunned by decent society. Time to move on.

As an aside, but in suppport of the proposition that breathalyzers aren't really neccesary, if you look at the drunk driving provisions of the criminal code, there are two separate grounds on which you can be found to be guilty of impaired driving. One you can be found guilty if your blood alcohol level is over 0.08 (i.e., blowing over 80). A breathalyzer test is obviously essential for this offense, since the police can't otherwise measure your blood alcohol level unless they drag you back to a police station and take a blood test. But you can also be found guilty if you ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by alcohol (i.e., a police officers sees your car swerving all over the road, pulls you over, and you exhibit all the signs of being drunk). The latter offense clearly doesn't require a breatalyzer test, and indeed, conceivably you could be impaired, even if your blood alcohol level was below 0.08 (entirely possible - it's disturbing how much some people have to drink to blow over 80).

Oops, think my last comment got eaten,

Anyhow, agree wholeheartedly Jacques, we should treat alcohol like what it is - the oldest form of processed food. The shocking binge drinking behaviour you witness at US colleges (a "4th-year fifth"? Really? Not that Queen's was much better) is a testament to the dangers of repressed attitudes towards alcohol.

Laws against public drinking are meant to protect the public from being harassed by bums and drunks on the street.

Just like laws against panhandling are not meant to prevent a middle class man who lost his wallet from getting a dollar. They are to prevent the smelly annoying person from bothering the middle class man. You have to look at these laws in this context.

It is not a trade off of minority rights versus majority rights, or some otherwordly "government" imposing an exterior will on people.

It is about which situation causes the least hassle for the middle class. As the laws become more restrictive, they start to inconvenience the middle class more than the bums do, so there is a sweet spot in which the middle class are harassed the *least*. They do not have to deal with incredibly annoying people but they can get a drink. In this sweet spot, the dominant feels like it has the most freedom to enjoy the city night life.

Determinant: if you don't move in a public place, the Man can ask you to do so. If you refuse, then you are guilty of "refus d'obtempérer" (failure to obey? I don't the exact English term) and they can proceed on whatever test they want. It is of dubious legal validity but arguing constitutionnal rights with two armed men is rarely a winning short-term proposition.

That would be loitering. As your Man, er, Police Officer has the same powers as my police officer, as the Criminal Code is federal, that would be Section 175.

Unfortunately "refus d'obtempérer" or plain loitering is not an offence under s. 175, to a person who "loiters in a public place and in any way obstructs persons who are in that place". Refusing to move on when an officer tells you to is not an obstruction. So "refus d'obtempérer" is just an internet rumour.

Bob, interesting to get a lawyer's take on the issue, thanks.

Jacques Rene - I agree with you that culture matters, but it's also the case that culture can change. E.g. in Britain public drunkenness is a much greater problem now than it was 20, 30, 40 years ago, and it's not obvious why. Understanding that might help curb alcoholism (which I do think is a serious, life-destroying issue).

For example, in the UK one thing that has changed a lot in recent years is female drinking. When I was a grad student, women drank beer in 1/2 pints, so for every pint the guys drank, the women drank 1/2. It's hard to get completely smashed on 1/2 pints of British beer. Now there are alco-pops and coolers everywhere, so women are drinking the UK equivalent of a bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade for each pint that the guys drink. Not surprisingly, there has been a huge increase in female drunkenness!

rsj: "It is about which situation causes the least hassle for the middle class." That may explain why the law is what it is. But it does not answer the question: what should the law be?

Determinant: in Québec City, police will use that. They know they have no case but they often arrest people, keep them till morning and free them. You can sue them if you have money or complain at the Déontologie ( Ethics) Commission. You still stayed a night in jail. And sometimes you fall on the pavement when they drag you to the squad car. There are the niceties of laws and courts. And the reality of you vs two armed guy equipped with guns and unresolved masculinity issues...

As a general rule, the best thing to do is always to minimize the length of police encounters. If you aren't under arrest or being detained, then get away from them ASAP. Nothing good can come from hanging around people who's job it is to find a reason to deprive you of your liberty.

I just want the provinces to let Canadians buy their wine etc from wherever in the country and take it or send it home. If I buy wine from a regulated source in Ontario why can't I transport it (beyond a ridiculously small maximum amount) to my home in another province?

The Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, Jim. Relevant to the Mare Usque ad Mare thread, it relies on the interprovincial branch of the Trade & Commerce Power.

I wonder how that gets enforced (or not) in Ottawa.

Wasn't that law amended recently to basically allow for unlimited importation for persona? I know there was a private member bill from the MP from the Okanagan (not surprisingly) that got all party support.

Just for fun , you can google either
consensual police encounters

or consensual police contacts

Does that get me to a website that i'll have to explain to my IT guys?

cp encounters should get you 305 K hits

https://www.google.ca/#hl=fr&gs_rn=2&gs_ri=serp&tok=nDOBmoLft4qPb0_e7ahrrA&pq=yippy&cp=18&gs_id=2q&xhr=t&q=consensual+police+encounters&es_nrs=true&pf=p&tbo=d&sclient=psy-ab&oq=%22consensual+police&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=b325389806f8589e&biw=1024&bih=667

and cp contacts
a good 5 G
https://www.google.ca/#hl=fr&tbo=d&sclient=psy-ab&q=consensual+police+contact&oq=consensual+police+&gs_l=serp.1.1.0i19j0i30i19.72722.74582.3.77033.10.10.0.0.0.0.177.901.8j2.10.0...0.0...1c.1.2.serp.pYcbuPkOs3Y&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=b325389806f8589e&biw=1024&bih=667

including WIkipedia pages and law blogs fervently devoted to the convoluted niceties of how to be totally non-friendly while being totally polite and not saying a word and still be wholly conversationnal...

Bob Smith, the federal law was amended to allow interprovincial transport of wine for personal use. The provinces appear to be slow though in amending their legislation to free up movement. Some have liberalized, but others have made more limited moves. PEI now allows a case of wine person to be brought in, but not for example shipped from a winery in Ontario or BC.

I can't believe I am being the scold here but I listen to enough BBC radio to know that public drinking is a /real/ problem in Britain. I support more open access to alcohol (micro-brews, small vinyards, imported beer,..) but not necessarily more ability to drink in public.

"Public drinking is banned throughout the US also."

Not in New Orleans last I was there.

"If London (UK) is not a world-class city, then there are none. Yet, if you are not in a dance club (or a strip club, or perhaps a hotel bar), then it is pretty challenging to get served a drink after 10:45pm."

11 pm closing laws were repealed in 2004. It is now really easy to get a drink after 10:45.

I actually did not have any idea that US banned the public drinking of alcohol and that UK is allowing its people to drink publicly. Well, with the many rascals in the US, it is but right to ban the drinking of alcohol in the public.

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