Alcohol access restrictions in public places

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Expert Opinion

Strategies with this rating are recommended by credible, impartial experts but have limited research documenting effects; further research, often with stronger designs, is needed to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers

A variety of policies can be used to restrict the availability and use of alcohol at sporting events, other public events such as concerts and street fairs, and public spaces such as parks and beaches. Restrictions can be implemented voluntarily by event organizers or through local legislation. Efforts include total bans on alcohol consumption at certain times or places, designated drinking and alcohol-free areas, prohibition of alcoholic beverages in open containers, limits on the number of alcoholic beverages per sale, and establishment of standard enforcement procedures for monitoring and violation1, 2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced excessive drinking

  • Reduced underage drinking

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Reduced alcohol-related harms

What does the research say about effectiveness?

Restricting alcohol use and availability at public events and on public property is a suggested strategy to reduce excessive drinking and underage drinking1, 3, 4, 5. An Australia-based study of alcohol sale regulations at community sports clubs indicates such regulations may reduce risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm6. Available evidence suggests that banning or restricting alcohol sales at public events may reduce alcohol availability for youth and may also reduce alcohol-related problems such as traffic crashes, vandalism, fighting, and other public disturbances1, 7. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects4, 5, 8.

Implementation Examples

Many local government ordinances regulate alcohol sales and use on public property and at public events. Santa Fe, New Mexico is an example of a city that prohibits alcohol sales on most city property9 and the City of Gulf Shores in Alabama bans alcohol consumption or possession on public beaches10. Event organizers in urban and rural areas around the country also implement restrictions and work to ensure that staff who serve alcohol beverage are trained to comply with these policies1.

Implementation Resources

HSNI-Alcohol management - Helping Services for Northeast Iowa (HSNI). Alcohol management for fairs and festivals. Increase your profits. Decrease your problems. Prevent underage drinking. Dubuque: Helping Services for Northeast Iowa (HSNI); 2012.


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1 UMN-AEP - University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program (UMN-AEP). Alcohol control policy descriptions.

2 Lenk 2010 - Lenk KM, Toomey TL, Erickson DJ, et al. Alcohol control policies and practices at professional sports stadiums. Public Health Reports. 2010;125(5):665-673.

3 IOM-Underage drinking 2004 - Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking, Board on Children, Youth, and Families (BCYF). Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility. (Bonnie RJ, O’Connell ME, eds.). Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2004.

4 Toomey 2008 - Toomey TL, Erickson DJ, Lenk KM, Kilian GR. Likelihood of illegal alcohol sales at professional sport stadiums. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2008;32(11):1859-64.

5 Toomey 2005 - Toomey TL, Erickson DJ, Patrek W, Fletcher LA, Wagenaar AC. Illegal alcohol sales and use of alcohol control policies at community festivals. Public Health Reports. 2005;120(2):165-73.

6 Kingsland 2015 - Kingsland M, Wolfenden L, Tindall J, et al. Tackling risky alcohol consumption in sport: A cluster randomised controlled trial of an alcohol management intervention with community football clubs. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2015;69(10):993-999.

7 RAND-Imm 2007 - Imm P, Chinman M, Wandersman A, et al. Preventing underage drinking: Using Getting To Outcomes™ with the SAMHSA strategic prevention framework to achieve results. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2007: Technical Report 403.

8 Nelson 2013 - Nelson TF, Xuan Z, Babor TF, et al. Efficacy and the strength of evidence of U.S. alcohol control policies. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2013;45(1):19-28.

9 Santa Fe-Regulations - City of Santa Fe. Rules and regulations.

10 Gulf Shores-Alcohol - City of Gulf Shores. Beach rules and regulations.

Date last updated