Drinking in Public Montreal Style

Know your way around the law

Woman arranging food on picnic table at lakeshore during sunny day Canada, Quebec, Montreal

Cavan Images/Getty Images 

Montreal is open-minded on all sorts of fronts. Legal drinking age, for example, is age 18. In most of Canada, it's 19.

But drinking in public? The only public drinking that should happen is in establishments in possession of an alcohol-serving permit issued by the Liquor, Racing and Gaming Authority (Régie des permis d’alcool du Québec). With a license, only places like brewpubs, festivals and outdoor events are authorized to sell alcohol. But there is an exception to that rule.

Drinking on the Streets and in the Parks

You can't drink alcohol on Montreal streets or in Montreal alleyways. However, you can drink alcoholic beverages in a park, and thus lies the loophole to the no public drinking law. But you must, without exception, be consuming a meal with that alcoholic beverage in that beautiful Montreal park.

What is considered a meal? "Meal" is the exact word the city regulation uses, albeit in French. To use other words, you must be having a bona fide picnic to be able to legally drink in Montreal parks without risking legal repercussions. That means that a bag of chips or a muffin isn't enough to be considered a meal. Your picnic really needs to be just that, a full meal: sandwiches, fruits, veggies, cheese, the works. Bonus points if you have a cooler that looks especially picnicky.

A meal al fresco can be a very trendy thing to do. And it works wonderfully for Montrealers who take complete advantage of the bylaw loophole with all sorts of cool food and booze pairings. Try a picnic with your favorite alcoholic beverages. Just keep things civilized and discrete. Police could very well intervene if you're slurring your words and causing a scene or if you are not pairing your wine with a full meal.

More About the Loophole

There is another stipulation in the regulation. The outdoor meal must be consumed in an area of the park that has picnic tables. So just plopping down on any piece of public space that happens to have grass doesn't cut it. Police could ticket you on this technicality with a stiff fine.

The regulations, translated loosely from the French, state that it is forbidden to consume alcoholic beverages in the public domain except:

  1. In a café-terrace installed on the public domain where the sale of alcoholic drinks is permitted by law.
  2. On the occasion of a meal taken outdoors in the part of a park where the City has set up picnic tables.
  3. In certain circumstances or on the occasion of events, festivals or manifestations, following the authorization is given by ordinance.

So enjoy a summer picnic with a glass of bubbly, wine, or beer as part of your visit to Montreal and know that you are within the law.