City okays exception for open alcohol consumption

400-CARRIAGE-CRASH-INJUREDWith City Commissioner Leanna Freeman absent and over the objection of Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline, the mayor and two remaining commissioners acted to make an exception for passengers of privately operated horse-drawn carriages last night; allowing them to drink alcoholic beverages if the carriage driver is properly licensed.

Ordinance 2013-27, relating to the consumption of alcohol in public, was approved on second reading on a split vote of 3-1 with Sikes-Kline dissenting.

Possession or consumption of unsealed containers of beer, wine or other intoxicating beverages is prohibited on the city right-of-way. In effect, the new ordinance says city police will not issue citations to passengers of the city’s franchised horse-drawn carriages; so long as the driver of the carriage has an endorsement on their driver’s license similar to the chauffer of a limousine.

It is still illegal for pedestrians to walk those same rights-of-way with an open can of beer; or, to ride a skateboard, bicycle, Segway, or rickshaw, while sipping from a glass of chardonnay.

It is unknown, until tested in court, what will happen to a passenger who has been drinking champagne on a licensed carriage ride — once they step out of the carriage. Since the ordinance only exempts possession of the open container and consumption while aboard, it seems clear that to enjoy the protection of the exemption, the bottles, cans, and glasses will need to be left behind.

However, the passenger may still run afoul of public intoxication laws that don’t require possession of an open container to subject the person to arrest once they set foot on the ground. Also unknown is what liability will attach to the city for creating this safe harbor, when someone inevitably is injured, or killed, after leaving the sanctuary of the carriage.

The new ordinance becomes effective after ten days.

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