Saturday, September 20, 2008


The city’s open-container law prohibits anyone from drinking an alcoholic beverage, or possessing and intending to drink from an open container containing an alcoholic beverage, in any public place. So, could my living room be a public place, well read on.

The law defines a public place as one "to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access, including, but not limited to,' a sidewalk, street or park."
Several people this summer have been issued tickets for "drinking in public," when indeed, they were on the stoops of their Brownstone buildings in Brooklyn. The police consider stoops "public places." Why? Because, they are in clear public view. But, the law specifically uses the word access.

The public does not have the right to access my stoop, which I consider private property. So, if my shades are drawn open and I'm sitting in my living room sipping a glass of wine or a Heineken, do the police have the right to issue me a summons for "drinking in public.?"

Kimber VanRy made headlines a few weeks ago, when he was busted for drinking in public. The 39-year-old sales manager goes to court on November 12 to fight his ticket. But, unfortunately, his case is a little different from the others. When a cop pulled in front of his home in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Vanry stepped off his stoop with his beer to talk to the officer. Ooops! Technically, at this point he was indeed in a public place....on a sidewalk.

A few months back, a New York court upheld a ticket handed to someone drinking in the interior lobby of an apartment building. (not the one to the right) Why? Because, the police told the judge, the beer drinker could be seen from the street drinking the adult beverage. This raises questions about patios, rooftop decks and yes, even living rooms. In my case, the bedroom faces the street and I suppose if my drapes were open and I decided to drink a beer while writing this blog on my computer, someone could see me "drinking in public."

The cops in the 77th precinct, where VanRy was ticketed, insist they haven't launched a major stoop drinking crackdown. They claim it's totally random. Fine. The penalty for such a heinous violation is a paltry $25.00. Nothing to get really upset about. But, VanRy is screaming from his window, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." He goes to court in two months, because he says it's a matter of principle. VanRy won't win, because he walked his beer to the sidewalk where the police car was parked. If cops start ticketing people drinking on porches, back decks and living rooms, I assure you I'll join the "I'm not going to take it anymore" crowd.

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