Open Container Tips for New Year’s Eve

Christmas is over and the focus has shifted to the one remaining holiday that places a premium on drinking skills – New Year’s Eve.  While specific events are still being hashed out, most people have a general plan to hop from party to party until arriving at a final location in time for the ball drop.

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Since you’re reading this blog, we’ll assume that you plan to enjoy some adult beverages throughout the evening. As such, we’d like to offer a few tips to help you have a safe and police-free New Year’s Eve celebration by imparting a bit of open-container wisdom. The best way to navigate the twisted, complex world of alcohol statutes is by heading right to the enforcers, so we asked Sonny Jackson with the Denver Police Department to help us out with a few of the more complicated, off-beat open container situations you may encounter on New Year’s Eve.

The easiest way to avoid an issue on New Year’s Eve is to not drink on the streets or in public. While drinking from a coffee tumbler is less conspicuous than a Dale’s Pale Ale Royal Pint, it’s still advisable to restrict your alcohol consumption to the great indoors. However, the typical New Year’s Eve sees people running from party to party and, in some cases, bringing their alcohol along for the ride. These grey areas are where the DPD was able to provide some clarity:

  • Alcohol in coffee mugs or tumblers – According to Jackson, DPD officers will not be spot checking containers unless they have reason to believe the container contains alcohol, but don’t think of that as a green light to spike your Starbucks or Pablo’s cup. New Year’s Eve has a unique ability to shine a spotlight on those who’ve had a bit too much to drink, so walking around town with booze in your coffee will only move you to the front of the citation line.
  • Booze on public transportation – One of the cardinal rules of New Year’s Eve is don’t drink and drive or even put yourself in that position, which means Denver’s public transportation will likely get a workout. For those planning on taking RTD between parties, know this – individuals are allowed to carry unopened (original seal intact) containers on public transportation, said Jackson, but any type of container (opened vodka, corked wine, etc.) with a broken seal will put you at risk a citation. If you’re going to be using RTD regularly during the evening, one way to avoid this potential snafu is to purchase multiple small containers of booze and open one-per-party.
  • Moving between parties with booze – Yes, we know we just covered a version of this that focused on public transportation. However, we all know how easy Denver is to navigate on foot, so what about walking between parties with something alcoholic? According to the DPD, the only partially consumed alcohol that can be legally transported from one location to another is a regular-size bottle of wine that has been re-corked and is being moved from a restaurant to a private location.  This is a dream crusher for those of you planning on toting a handle of rum around all evening and taking a few shots at each party – even if the top is screwed back on before you take off for the next destination, you’re still risking a potential citation.
  • The grass/sidewalk conundrum – My condo has a lawn in the front that is bisected by the sidewalk (picture to the right) but our association pays for the maintenance and landscaping of the lawn. I’ve always wondered if I can finish a beer in this area while waiting for a taxi since it appears to be part of my building. According to Jackson, the only way to know for sure if you’re legally able to drink in an area like this is to contact the City Attorney’s Office to determine if the specific area is a city easement and/or who owns the area. If you think this is too much trouble, you’re right – there’s no need to ruin the night before it begins just because you wanted to finish a beer as you wait for a taxi.

While this list looks at a few less well-known open container instances that might trip up your New Year’s Eve plans, the easiest way to ensure you don’t run afoul of the DPD is to keep your drinking indoors and in control.

About Peter MacKellar


A native Coloradan who thinks our fine state offers the best beer and snow anywhere in the U.S., Peter recently moved back to Denver after spending a few years in New York City.