July 3, 2024

WANDERLUST: Open Container Laws are Friendly in Some Towns if You Follow These Basic Rules

2.2 min read| Published On: July 3rd, 2024|

By Gina Horan

WANDERLUST: Open Container Laws are Friendly in Some Towns if You Follow These Basic Rules

2.2 min read| Published On: July 3rd, 2024|

There are so many bars and restaurants in the downtown districts of Lake and Sumter Counties, that moving around is almost mandatory and being able to carry your drink around is a bonus if your group wants to move along and you haven’t finished your margarita.

Fortunately, some cities have figured this out and have put forth rules to guide you through the open container questions. 

In Leesburg, famous for its Bikefest, there are open-air vendors and participating bars so instead of guzzling your beer to move to the next venue, you can sip and stroll if you stay within the boundaries of the downtown district. 

According to Leesburg PD’s Sergeant Shannon Walsh, there are exceptions to the open container laws which are stipulated in the Leesburg city ordinance for events and festivals.

“If there is an organized event put on by the local businesses then it is allowed,” she says. So, for example, the upcoming Summer Shenanigans Bar Crawl put on by participating Downtown Leesburg Businesses, open-air drinking is supported because they have wrist bands, tickets and an organized event.

Clermont police officer Corporal Alexa Dougherty explains that her city is very supportive of the downtown events and waterfront festivals, so long as the participants are respectful of the ordinances the city has established. 

“We have events like Food Truck Fridays and Sips -n- Salsa Festival throughout the year and we think it’s great for the businesses and communities,” she says. “It’s just important to stay within what we call the ‘entertainment district’ so it’s important to stay aware of the boundaries.” 

Eustis and Tavares have similar laws, and in 2018, Mount Dora set out specific rules to allow downtown visitors and residents to patronize bars and restaurant and then walk with their beverage to see the sunset at the docks or enjoy one of the city’s festival with a drink in a plastic cup. Just like Clermont, the designated area is downtown in the “entertainment district.”

Each city has their own rules, which can be found on their websites under “ordinances.” The following is specific to Mount Dora, but is a template to follow for the other cities. 

  • Drinks must be sold by a licensed and registered bar or restaurant located inside the “Entertainment District.”
  • Drinks must be in plastic cups that hold 16 ounces or less. (Some cities can be 20 oz.)
  • Plastic cups must have a marking that identifies the registered establishment where they were purchased.
  • Establishments can only dispense one open alcoholic beverage to any one person at a time.
  • Patrons can only possess one open alcoholic beverage at any one time.
  • Customers cannot purchase and consume the open alcoholic beverage between 2:00 am and 7:00 a.m.
  • It will remain unlawful to walk in the district with an open alcoholic beverage in a can, bottle or glass.
  • All state laws still apply.

As for The Villages and their individual town squares, open containers are permitted so long as you purchase your beverage at the official Bar Huts, which are marked with specific logos. For Sawgrass Grove, the beverages can be enjoyed anywhere as long as they are in plastic cups and do not go past the sidewalk and into the parking lot. No outside beverages are allowed. 

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About the Author: Gina Horan

Gina moved to central Florida in August of 2021 from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and spent 10 years as a fashion editor, columnist and food writer for The Knight Ridder Newspaper group. She was also a photo stylist and covered concerts, fashion shows and festivals all over Northern California. In 2000, she joined KSAN radio as a morning show co-host and produced the news and sports content there for 4 years. She also covered travel, events and the restaurant scene for KRON-Bay TV. She is a veteran bartender and has worked in hospitality on and off since high school. Her passions include travel, road trips, history books, baseball, tasting menus and most of all, landing in a new city with no map or guidebook. Gina lives in Oxford with her mom, cats and baby hamster.

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