Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Park. Photograph by StudioMONDO/Flickr Creative Commons.
In many ways, the pandemic has made local governments much more progressive when it comes to alcohol laws. Parking spots are now wine spots, cocktails can be delivered, and in some public spaces, you can walk around with an open beer.
Montgomery County was among the local jurisdictions that seemed to be pioneering some looser public drinking laws. Last fall, in an effort to support local restaurants offering takeout, it launched a pilot program allowing alcohol consumption in several designated parks. Montgomery Parks Director Michael Riley said at the time that he hoped to continue and expand the program. It turns out, though, that won’t be the case. The county is suspending park drinking, effective today, as Maryland’s Covid-19 state of emergency ends.
“While the program was in effect, we had no reported alcohol-related incidents or calls for service in our 13 pilot parks and parks patrons enjoyed the ability to eat and drink outdoors with friends and family. We were happy that parks were able to play a role in supporting local businesses and provide a safe outlet for social interaction,” said Riley said in a press release. He has not responded to a request for further comment.
Maryland has, however, extended the ability of restaurants and bars to serve alcohol for takeout and delivery through June 2023.
Meanwhile, Virginia continues to allow public drinking in certain shopping areas. In DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed creating a “commercial lifestyle license” that would allow mixed-use commercial developments (think the Wharf or CityCenterDC) to create wine- or cocktail-carrying zones.