The practice of sipping an alcoholic beverage on a sidewalk or park bench might be the norm in countries like France, China, and Brazil, but it’s been illegal in most U.S. cities for decades. But the tide may be turning as more and more cities are creating public drinking districts to inject some extra life into downtown economies.
Canton, Ohio, for example, legalized public drinking in the spring of 2016, limiting it to a popular 42-block area that often hosts concerts and art festivals. Canton is following in the footsteps of party hotspots like New Orleans’s Bourbon Street and the Las Vegas strip—but with a less rowdy edge.
“You have boomers and millennials both seeking an urban lifestyle that’s driving demand for more nightlife districts,” said Jim Peters, founder of the Responsible Hospitality Institute, in an interview with Stateline.
Cities from Nashville, Tennessee, to Toledo, Ohio, Biloxi, Mississippi, and Lincoln, Nebraska, have all created public drinking zones in the past few years. Drinks are usually contained in easily identifiable plastic cups, and the zone’s borders tend to be more heavily patrolled by police officers ensuring that the alcohol stays within bounds.
Canton sees its public drinking area as a potential magnet for millennials—a much-desired demographic for shrinking Rust Belt towns. The city has already recorded larger weekend crowds in the area, and hope it will encourage more development and increased restaurant revenue.