Cheers! Florida city may legalize public alcohol drinking

Ordinance moves on to second reading

File photo.
File photo.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The city that is home to the University of Florida may allow people to drink legally from open containers in public places such as sidewalks.

The Gainesville Sun reports that the city commission voted Monday on whether to allow open drinking on city property or right of way. The measure passed its initial reading and now a second commission approval will be required to make it final.

Gainesville adopted a similar temporary rule in September as a response to the business downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. That ordinance also allows businesses to serve alcohol in public and outdoor spaces.

The measure up for a second vote would make that ordinance permanent. It would not affect laws banning open drinking while driving.

“We’ve had open container for a year now and there haven’t been any issues,” said Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos. “And we shouldn’t have laws on the books that are there just to mess with people. We have laws currently for drunk and disorderly, for disorderly conduct, so if you do something that is a negative impact to society, then we can take action.”

Gainesville police say they issued about 50 to 60 public drinking citations before the temporary ordinance went into effect.

Gov. Ron DeSantis in May signed into law a state bill permanently allowing sale of alcoholic drinks to go, which also started because of the pandemic.