Walking & Drinking

How Houston Is Just Like New Orleans

Drinking outdoors isn’t (necessarily) against the law in Houston.

By Nick Panzarella December 1, 2013 Published in the December 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Face it, it’s one of the things you’ve always loved about The Big Easy—the city’s one big giant bar. There’s no rule that you must keep your imbibing indoors. If some sidewinder with a crappy backstory sidles up to an adjacent stool, you just grab your cocktail and flee to the relative safety of the streets, where the worst that can happen is some drunken college kid will stumble into you and spill your drink. 

Too bad you don’t have that same luxury here. Or do you?

“It is a commonly-held belief that it’s illegal to walk down the street drinking a beer in Texas. However, that is not always the case.”

Those words, which we recently happened upon at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission website, sparked wary excitement. We’d always chafed under the assumed strictness of Houston drinking laws, even fearing that we might receive a ticket for drinking in Houstonia’s unfenced Heights yard. Until, that is, we researched the Texas legal code, which states that public drinking is prohibited only in certain areas of state parks and wherever a city has specifically deemed it illegal. In 1994, the City of Houston successfully petitioned to ban drinking in public within the entire Central Business District (the area roughly bounded by Dowling Street and I-45, McGowen Street and Buffalo Bayou). On the one hand, you can’t drink on downtown’s streets, or Midtown’s or EaDo’s. On the other, it’s open season for open containers everywhere else. 

Public intoxication, which the TABC defines as inebriation that “may endanger the person or another,” is illegal everywhere, of course. But there’s no law against strolling Allen Parkway with a Lone Star while taking in the skyline, or sipping margaritas to-go in Eleanor Tinsley Park. Just keep things classy and under control, not like you would in NOLA.

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