Is it illegal to drink alcohol in public in the UK?

With the cost of living crisis in full swing, many Britons are looking to cut spending in the coming months.

Even socializing with friends can be out of reach for many as a night out costs a small amount, but socializing in public may be the answer.


Many people don’t know the law about drinking in public placesCredit: Getty

Is it illegal to drink alcohol in public in the UK?

If you’re over 18, the simple answer is no. There is no blanket limit on drinking alcohol in public places.

Local councils can take steps to stop drinking in certain areas where they believe alcohol may contribute to antisocial behavior.

In England and Wales, city councils can use the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to ban drinking in public in designated areas.

However, in Scotland, each local council has the power to apply its own rules (bylaws) regarding the prohibition of drinking alcohol in public places over the age of 18.

The Northern Ireland Council can introduce ordinances limiting the consumption of alcohol in certain areas or during parades.

You can be fined or even arrested if you drink in places where alcohol is prohibited or refuse to comply with police demands.

The PSPO gives police officers special powers to order people to stop and confiscate alcohol in public.

Is it legal to get drunk in a pub?

Strangely, there are still Victorian-era laws that make drinking in pubs illegal.

Under the Licenses Act 1872, anyone found intoxicated in a licensed establishment such as a pub is subject to punishment.

It is against the law under the Licensing Act 2003 for a bar staff to sell a drink to an intoxicated person, and if you are purchasing the drink for an intoxicated person, you may not serve alcohol to anyone. It is also illegal to sell them.

This is a law, but it is rarely enforced and seems quite outdated in modern times.

Is it illegal to drink alcohol on public transport?

Drinking alcohol is prohibited on most public transport in the UK.

For example, consuming alcohol or carrying open containers of alcohol is not permitted in:

  • TfL services in London (Bus, Tram, Underground, Docklands Light Railway)
  • Scotrail rail service in Scotland
  • Translink trains and buses in Northern Ireland

Alcohol restrictions also apply to many other bus and train services. If you are unsure, please check with the operator of the service.

These prohibitions are usually enforced through the operator’s terms and conditions for passengers.

But refusing to comply could get the police involved.

In the UK it is a crime to drink alcohol on trains. Penalty Notices (PNDs) for Disabilities and fines may be issued.

Also, if you are intoxicated, we may refuse you to travel.

There are rail services in the UK where you are allowed to buy and drink alcohol (many long distance lines).

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However, operators can decide to operate ‘dry’ trains where no alcohol is allowed on board. For example, a train going to a soccer match or other sporting event.

If this happens, a notification will be displayed in advance to warn passengers.

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