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Alcohol access restrictions in public places

Health Factors: Alcohol & Drug Use
Decision Makers: Local Government State Government Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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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 violation (UMN-AEP, Lenk 2010).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced excessive drinking
Reduced underage drinking
Reduced alcohol-related harms

Evidence of Effectiveness

Restricting alcohol use and availability at public events and on public property is a suggested strategy to reduce excessive drinking and underage drinking (IOM-Underage drinking 2004, UMN-AEP, Toomey 2008, Toomey 2005). An Australia-based study of alcohol sale regulations at community sports clubs indicates such regulations may reduce risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm (Kingsland 2015). 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 disturbances (UMN-AEP, RAND-Imm 2007). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects (Nelson 2013, Toomey 2005, Toomey 2008).


United States

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 property (Santa Fe-Alcohol) and the City of Gulf Shores in Alabama bans alcohol consumption or possession on public beaches (Gulf Shores-Alcohol). 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 policies (UMN-AEP).


Wisconsin bans alcohol consumption in some state parks (WI-State parks alcohol). Cities such as Madison and counties (e.g., Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Marinette) prohibit alcohol use in all or some parks and beach areas without a permit, at all times or during a certain period of time (Madison-Public alcohol, Milwaukee-Public alcohol, Kenosha-Public alcohol, Marinette-Public alcohol).

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. Accessed on April 18, 2017

Citations - Description

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. Accessed on April 17, 2017
UMN-AEP - University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program (UMN-AEP). Alcohol control policy descriptions. Accessed on April 17, 2017

Citations - Evidence

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. Accessed on February 23, 2018
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. Accessed on April 17, 2017
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. Accessed on April 17, 2017
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. Accessed on June 23, 2017
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. Accessed on April 18, 2017
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. Accessed on April 18, 2017
UMN-AEP - University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program (UMN-AEP). Alcohol control policy descriptions. Accessed on April 17, 2017

Citations - Implementation

Gulf Shores-Alcohol - City of Gulf Shores. Public beach rules and regulations. Accessed on April 17, 2017
Kenosha-Public alcohol - Kenosha County. FAQs Parks. Accessed on April 17, 2017
Madison-Public alcohol - City of Madison, Wisconsin. Park rules. Accessed on April 17, 2017
Marinette-Public alcohol - Marinette County, Wisconsin. County park and campground regulations. Accessed on April 17, 2017
Milwaukee-Public alcohol - Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. FAQ. Parks. Accessed on April 17, 2017
Santa Fe-Alcohol - Santa Fe Prevention Alliance. Alcohol sales at public events. Accessed on April 17, 2017
UMN-AEP - University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program (UMN-AEP). Alcohol control policy descriptions. Accessed on April 17, 2017
WI-State parks alcohol - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Alcohol in state parks and forests. Accessed on April 17, 2017

Page Last Updated

April 13, 2017

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