Lose the booze

We’ve got a new mayor of London – Boris Johnson – and he’s wasted no time getting on with the crackdowns. He’s banned people drinking alcohol on public transport , so if you’ve got an open can of lager or an uncorked bottle of wine, you won’t be allowed to get on a bus or a train in the capital.

But the leader of the main transport workers’ union attacked the idea as badly thought through,and another union leader is worried about attacks on staff if they try to enforce the ban.

The new mayor says ” I firmly believe that if we drive out so called minor crime then we will be able to get a firm grip on more serious crime.” Does he have a point ?

Is the new rule a good idea? Who should enforce it – should it be the ordinary staff of the transport company, or maybe the police? And if this is already the law where you live, how does it work?

Lucy on Newshour wants to hear from you…


27 Responses to “Lose the booze”

  1. 1 steve
    May 8, 2008 at 12:23

    In washington, DC you can get arrested for drinking water on the metro, so this rule in London isn’t entirely all that drastic.

  2. May 8, 2008 at 12:26

    He’s banned people drinking alcohol on public transport , so if you’ve got an open can of lager or an uncorked bottle of wine, you won’t be allowed to get on a bus or a train in the capital.

    What?! We can’t even legally drink in public [or outside of a private establishments ABC approved area]. I couldn’t immagine hopping onto a city bus and cracking one open!
    We aren’t allowed to drink on public transport here and we get along just fine [or sneak a flask onto the subway from time to time haha].

    If anyone is going to enforce it, it should be the law enforcement who does it. It isn’t very fair to ask the drivers, who should be focused on driving, to keep an eye on all passengers and what they are doing at all times, then stop and take the time to address drinking issues individually which could also inconvenience other passengers as well as put the drivers into situations they may not be comfortable being in.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  3. 3 steve
    May 8, 2008 at 12:47

    @ Brett

    Yes, you can have open containers. When I lived in Germany, people would walk down the streets drinking beers. Would drink beer on the U-Bahn. When I lived in the UK, you I seem to recall being able to do that, though I remember if sporting events were going on, some of the trains (not the underground) would ban alcohol so there wouldn’t be so much soccer hooliganism.

    So people, when you complain you cannot have a beer on london public transport, remember, you likely wont go to jail for eating a candy bar.


    Brett, do you also remember several years back some area in NoVa would have cops arrest people INSIDE of bars for being drunk? Even if they weren’t driving, they would arrest them in a private place for public intoxication?

  4. 4 Will Rhodes
    May 8, 2008 at 13:15

    Here in NB you can only have a open booze bottle when you are in your own garden or at a bar. It works perfectly fine – if you have one open anywhere else you will get ticketed by the police. If you are intoxicated and have an open beer/booze you will spend the night in the ‘drunk tank’.

    I agree with him – you don’t need to be on public transport or anywhere else other than a pub beer garden or at home.

  5. 6 I.M. Firsty
    May 8, 2008 at 14:35


    we feel for ye…..!!!

    In NYC you used to be able to “brown bag it” and pretty much be left alone, and have a nice cold one on the subway….but our series of prudish uptight mayors have been strangling the soul of the city.

    If it’s a barometer of change, look out! This could mean the difference between a real city and a big-box-store-infested, fancy-real-estate-centric, whitewashed Disneyf-fied version of your metropolis…

    Cheers, Mates!

    I.M. Firsty (NYC)

  6. 7 Nathan
    May 8, 2008 at 14:46

    Mr. Rhodes – Don’t you ever drink in the park, have a picnic? On the beach?

    Fine, arrest people for offensive drunkenness, but proscribing peoples’ recreation time more and more is not consistent with a liberal society.

    Boris Johnson’s initiative is nothing more than a gimmick. This is obviously the thinking of a man who NEVER uses public transport. He implies that the drinking of alcohol is “intimidating”, but I’ve lived in London for nearly ten years and I have never felt intimidated by the fact someone is drinking. He has no idea.

    Boris is using the usual right-wing strategy of scapegoating and demonising. By attacking those who live in a way with which he, and the suburbanites who voted for him, are not familiar, he avoids tackling the real issues of violence and intimidation in the inner city.

    Intimidation happens by and large on dark streets not brighlty lit, CCTV equiped buses. But the mayor has no responsibility for these areas!

  7. 8 John in Salem
    May 8, 2008 at 15:01

    I had no idea that London was (until now) so liberal. Oregon is considered to be fairly progressive about such things and yet there are only two towns in the state that allow alcohol consumption in public – outside of that you have to be in a bar or restaurant to drink. I’m not complaining – I’ve lived in one of those towns and it could (and did) get ugly sometimes.
    But the idea of concentrating on small crime first in order to “get a firm grip on more serious crime”? You guys must have a lot of money to pay for police and prosecutors and court time!

  8. May 8, 2008 at 15:05

    Brett, do you also remember several years back some area in NoVa would have cops arrest people INSIDE of bars for being drunk? Even if they weren’t driving, they would arrest them in a private place for public intoxication?

    Yep! There was also some controversy about them waiting outside bars too and nabbing people as they walked out. Sneaky sneaky.

  9. 10 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 8, 2008 at 15:23

    I only drink in my local pub or indoors. If I had a picnic somewhere I would expect to be able to drink there. Sadly The British Public are so untidy they rarely think of disposing of empty cans and bottles or even perhaps just taking them home. These rulings are often the masses suffering for the selfish few. Now we are getting better weather here I know a local “green” area will be littered with empty cans while the waste bins remain unused. Someone has to clean up after them. We have to pay.

  10. May 8, 2008 at 15:39

    I think the law is great! Man I don’t want to have to rid the public transit system with a drunk or a group of them. The key to being around drunks is to be one of them. Public commutes are often used to get a few things done before or after work. How annoying it is when somebody is being a distraction.

    Of course the capitalist idea would be to have certain train lines that cater to drinking. Then people who get on those trains know what to expect.

    I love the cop outside the bar idea in a way. Not to arrest people necessarily, but to warn them that the cop thinks they are too drunk. I think it is way better then pulling somebody over for a missing license plate light just to see if they are just over the limit. Or to tie up traffic for a sobriety checkpoint. I

    let them stand outside the bar and warn patrons the officer thinks might be too intoxicated, that if they get in the car they are going to get arrested. If it was really about safety, this would be a much better approach.

  11. 12 Tita Lenz
    May 8, 2008 at 16:40

    It is a shame that people just smock in public places regardless of the health of others.It would be a good thing to band smocking in public places,this would help so many people from the effect of smocking.

  12. 13 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 8, 2008 at 17:01

    Tita Lenz. If I smoke in public i always have my ashtray with me to dispose of cigarette ends. As for polluting the atmosphere what about all the cars and lorries etc. I do not drive. Do i have a say too?

  13. 14 Rich in Aberdeenshire
    May 8, 2008 at 17:28

    I think it’s a good idea – drinking in public places in Scotland is illegal and it greatly helps curb rowdy behaviour.

    Remember that just because something’s illegal it doesn’t mean it’ll be heavily enforced – the great thing about the British legal system is the discretion on the front line. It doesn’t necassarily mean you can’t have a drink in the park or open a can of cold cider on a hot summer’s day!

    If a pleaseant enough group of people are enjoying a quiet drink on their way out then a simple reminder of the rules and to ask them politely to keep their alcohol sealed may be more than enough. But, for a rowdy group whose alcohol is making their behaviour deteriorate it may be just the firm line you need to ensure their behaviour stops.

    Having lived and worked both north and south of the UK border their are obviously slight differences here and there, but one definate positive point in Scotland is the ability to enforce a ‘no-drinking-in-public’ law.

    Having said that, I don’t like the current culture of ‘something’s broken….BAN IT!’ This is perhaps another to add to that list. But then perhaps the alcohol culture in the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and NI) needs to be looked at with a stronger stance on education rather than “ban it!”

  14. 15 Katharina in Ghent
    May 8, 2008 at 17:50

    I remember back in December 2000 there was the first-ever (of three) annual German Christmas markets in Toronto, and the organizer insisted to serve hot Gluehwein (mulled wine) there. So what did they do? They put a fence around the market and positioned a policeman at the gate, inside you were allowed to sip your wine, but outside you weren’t. Seemed rather silly to me.

    Here in Belgium people would fall over like shot birds from the trees if a politician dared to come up with such legislation. Here in Gent we have every July the “Gentse Feesten” (festival) which lasts for 10 days and whose main purpose is to get as many people completely drunk as possible. On the side they also play some music, but… This festival is one of the main reasons why we move away from the city center to suburbia. Too many drunk singers at 3am (not to mention the variety of smells).

  15. 16 Will Rhodes
    May 8, 2008 at 17:56

    Nathan May 8, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Mr. Rhodes – Don’t you ever drink in the park, have a picnic? On the beach?

    Well no, the reason for this is that when we go to the local park we have to drive for about an hour – and I don’t agree with drinking and driving.

    If any designated areas were freed up for people to have a glass of wine or a beer while picnicking I wouldn’t be against it.

    I just don’t see why someone would want to get on public transport and sink a can of Tennents.

    But if you feel it’s OK – fine by me.

  16. 17 richard
    May 8, 2008 at 18:36

    In my town as in many, many municipalities in the United States, there is an “Open Container Law,” making it an offence to have in one’s possession, and open container of any alcoholic beverage in a public place. The offence carries a fine.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_open_container_laws

    While this generally works well, it does have some unfortunate side effects. Seated at a table on the pavement (sidewalk) outside a restaurant is an exception, but you will never see people standing on the pavement casually sipping wine and chatting amicably, as is so frequent in parts of Europe.

    In most places in the USA, the law also extends to the passenger compartment of private motor vehicles. See


    Click to access OpenContainer.pdf

  17. 18 Justin from Iowa
    May 8, 2008 at 18:51

    Peter, do the brits have “deposit” on their alcohol and beverage bottles?

    In the US, every bottle of beer and pop has an extra 5 cents tacked onto it. When you turn the can into a recycling center you get that 5 cents back. Say what you will about other forms of trash, you rarely see cans and bottles lying about in the US, because that’s free money on the ground.

    Here in Iowa you can have alcohol on your private property, bars, and approved of public venues (like outside the football stadium for tailgating, etc.). But public transport… you can’t even bring pop or food on, let alone booze. At least not visible. (Have some good stories about college days and a backpack which was JUST right for hauling around a 24 pack of beer, heh)

    Cops here are smart. They like to lurk around bars near closing time just waiting for known troublemakers.

  18. 19 Jens
    May 8, 2008 at 18:59

    here in new mexico it’s ok to stop off at the gas sation, through-out your empty fifth of JD, buy a new one, crack it open and carry on driving.

    no wonder the driving standarts are so appaling

  19. 20 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 8, 2008 at 19:21

    Hi Justin from Iowa,
    When I was a child in the 1940s all bottles had a deposit! We even got a halfpenny for jam jars. My mother would then buy jam jars back for 1 penny for making jam and bottling fruit.. Milk came in bottles too which were returned. I used to make quite a bit of pocket money that way. A penny went a long way.

    Now all bottles and cans are discarded. I believe some supermarkets are doing a similar thing with recycling. I do recycle everything I can, but then being retired I have the time. Here the deposit would have to be around 50p (about 1 dollar) to make people wake up.

  20. 21 Jens
    May 8, 2008 at 20:00

    wish they recycled glass here, but the transfere station does only magazins, cardboard, newspaper, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans.

    i guess they worry that the average new mexican is too drunk to throw the bottles into the container without breaking them.

  21. 22 Justin from Iowa
    May 8, 2008 at 20:21

    You would be surprised, Peter. Though its not a very palatable way to look at it, as your economic situation becomes more difficult any form of income becomes valuable. There are people here that spend time picking up bottles and cans from ditches, roadsides, streets… just because their economic situation is difficult enough that its worth doing.

  22. 23 Dennis Young, Jr.
    May 8, 2008 at 20:27

    I know where i am going to community college in a few weeks, the public transportation [buses] have rules saying that you can not have any open containers of liquids i.e. water……..

    Dennis~Madrid, United States of America

  23. 24 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 8, 2008 at 20:58

    Hi again Justin from Iowa,
    Yes we are feeling the pinch here too. Hopefully it might wake people up? We have become an easy come easy go society. Rationing taught me the value of money, Hope it doesn’t come to that again.

  24. 25 Mel Morris, Burlington, Ontario
    May 8, 2008 at 22:05

    I had to laugh today as i drove to a meeting and heard the question ‘is alcohol banned on transportation where you live?’
    Here in Ontario you technically can’t even drink alcohol on your own front porch as it is considered ‘in public’ although that is not usually enforced.
    You can’t drink alcohol in any vehicle public or private – can’t have an open bottle of alcohol in your car, unless it is locked in the trunk.
    can’t drink in public parks, on the streets or anywhere that isn’t licenced except inside your own home or in your back garden.
    Alcohol sales are controlled by the govt through registered liquor and beer stores (not so in Quebec it should be noted) and for the most part I have to say it works very well. Of course some teenagers take alcohol into parks and forests at night , but for the most part our streets are clean, safe, and you don’t get accosted by drunken tramps or rampaging drunken yobs.

  25. 26 Laura in Minneapolis
    May 9, 2008 at 18:32

    I’m pressed for time so i haven’t read most of the previous posts, however.. my two cents:

    I work in a liquor store on campus. I know, classy job, right? Anyways, there are definitely already laws in Minneapolis banning A) open alcohol on public transport and in vehicles and B)Drinking in public areas as well. We don’t really question it here- although it means we go through a lot of brown bags at the liquor store.

    In terms of drinking in public laws, i don’t think it’s really a help here on campus. Students are generally drunk in public anyways, even if you cant see their drink…

    In London, if this passes law enforcement should be the enforcers. Drivers of buses and trains have other things to worry about… like driving.

  26. May 10, 2008 at 21:24

    I kid you not, I once saw a woman merrily chatting away to her friend on the tube with a GLASS OF WINE held delicately between her fingers. Next stop Balham -canapes anyone?

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