Drinking in Public: Montreal Style

How to Get Away With Drinking Alcohol in Public on the Street and in Parks

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Montreal is open-minded on all sorts of fronts. Legal drinking age for example. We set the bar low on that one.

But drinking in public? Wrong front, folks. New Orleans, this is not. The only public drinking you're gonna get is in establishments in possession of an alcohol-serving permit issued by the Régie des permis d’alcool du Québec like at these choice Montreal brewpubs and at festivals and outdoor events authorized to sell alcohol.

But there is an exception to that rule.

Can I Drink Booze on the Streets?

No. You can't drink alcohol on Montreal streets. Or in Montreal alleyways. Or on top of a climbable downtown shopping center roof. Then again, who hasn't done these things at least once in their Montreal-esque life, right? But the lucid, responsible, legal adult answer is still no.

Can I Drink Booze in the Park?

Yes, you can. But you must, without exception, be consuming a meal with that alcoholic beverage. That's the deal. Do you want your bubbly? You better eat too.

What Constitutes a Valid 'Meal'?

That's 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 meal. Sandwiches, fruits, veggies, cheese, the works. Bonus points if you have a cooler that looks especially picnicky.

It's civilized. And it works wonderfully for Montrealers who take complete advantage of the bylaw loophole with all sorts of cool food booze pairings. Give it a try. You'll love it too. Just keep things chic and discrete. Police could very well intervene if you're slurring and causing a scene or if you're pairing 12 king cans with one little ham and cheese.

Anything Else I Need to Know About This 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. A cop could ticket you on this technicality, fining you anywhere from $100 to $1,000.

From the Règlement concernant la paix et l'ordre sur le domaine public:

Il est défendu de consommer des boissons alcooliques sur le domaine public, sauf:
1º dans un café-terrasse installé sur le domaine public où la vente de boissons
 alcooliques est autorisée par la loi;
2º à l'occasion d'un repas pris en plein air dans la partie d'un parc où la Ville a
 installé des tables de pique-nique;
3º dans certaines circonstances ou à l'occasion d'événements, de fêtes ou de
 manifestations, suivant l'autorisation donnée par ordonnance.

Does that mean you'll get a ticket if you're picnicking with wine and there are no picnic tables in sight? Probably not. But in these trying economic times where imposing fines could make the difference between city hall balancing its budget and imposing even higher taxation on an already irate citizenship, don't push your luck.