What’s Allowed? Open Container Laws in Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee is well known for its lively music scene, bustling nightlife, and vibrant entertainment options. With so many bars, restaurants, and events centered around alcohol, it’s important for residents and visitors alike to understand the city’s open container laws. This guide breaks down Nashville’s regulations in detail, including exceptions, potential consequences, and tips for enjoying Music City responsibly.

Understanding Open Container Laws

Open container laws refer to regulations prohibiting the possession or consumption of open containers of alcohol in public spaces. These laws are in place across much of the United States, with the goal of promoting public safety and order. The concept behind open container laws is that restricting public alcohol consumption will help curb irresponsible drinking behaviors that could endanger oneself or others.

More specifically, open container laws prohibit individuals from holding or drinking from any open can, bottle, or other container of alcoholic beverages while in public areas. A container is considered open if any part of its original packaging seal has been broken. These laws apply to both drivers and passengers inside vehicles as well.

Open Container Laws in Nashville

In Nashville, it is illegal to possess an open container of alcohol or consume alcohol on public streets, sidewalks, alleys, parks, and other property. This includes while walking, driving, or riding in a vehicle. The open container law applies citywide, with few exceptions.

Private spaces and businesses licensed to serve alcohol are exempt. For instance, you can legally enjoy a drink at a bar’s outdoor patio seating. Having an open alcoholic beverage inside a private residence or in a hotel room is also permitted. But carrying open containers from place to place in public areas is strictly prohibited.

Violating Nashville’s open container law is a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, penalties can include fines up to $50, jail time up to 30 days, or both. The punishment typically depends on whether it’s a first or repeat offense.

Exceptions and Gray Areas

Nashville does allow possession of open containers of alcohol at permitted special events, such as festivals. For example, certain surface streets may be closed to traffic to create entertainment districts during large events like the CMA Music Festival.

In these designated areas, festival goers can purchase alcohol from vendors and walk freely with open containers within specified boundaries. However, controlling access to these areas is strictly enforced.

The city has also passed new regulations allowing open containers in some entertainment districts on certain days and times. But it’s important to note these rules come with restrictions and do not equate to a free-for-all boozy stroll through the city.

For instance, Lower Broadway allows open containers on weekends between 10am-11pm. But drinks must be purchased from an approved venue in a branded plastic cup indicating it’s meant for outdoor consumption. Wandering into the district with your own open beverages is still prohibited.

Consequences of Violating Open Container Laws

Given the popularity of bar hopping and live music in Nashville, violations of open container laws are common. But consequences can be severe if caught and convicted.

Potential penalties for a first offense open container violation include:

  • Fines up to $50
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Probation

Subsequent convictions can trigger larger fines up to $500 and longer jail sentences. Open container citations may also appear on background checks and affect employment eligibility for some jobs.

Beyond legal punishments, accidents and injuries related to public intoxication are also a risk. Drunk pedestrians face much higher risks of falls, collisions with vehicles, and other hazards.

For drivers, an open container violation paired with evidence of impairment can lead to a DUI charge. This can mean large fines, license suspension, ignition interlock device requirements, and possible jail time.

Consequences of Violating Open Container Laws

Tips for Enjoying Nashville Responsibly

Nashville offers no shortage of opportunities to enjoy adult beverages in bars, restaurants, and other licensed establishments. But when partaking, it’s essential to plan ahead and be mindful of open container laws. Here are some tips for staying safe and legal while experiencing all Music City has to offer:

  • When bar hopping, finish your drink before heading to the next spot or pour it into a plastic cup provided by the bar. Never take drinks to-go in their original glassware.
  • If you want to drink outdoors at a street festival, double check where the designated entertainment district boundaries are marked and always keep your beverage within them.
  • Consider relying on rideshares, taxis or public transit after a night of drinking rather than walking or driving. This avoids the risks of wandering with open containers or driving impaired.
  • If you’ll be driving, avoid alcohol completely or limit yourself to just one drink early in the evening. Eat food as well to slow absorption into your system.
  • Bring along a non-drinking friend who can look out for others in your group and deter any risky behaviors like wandering with open beverages.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you walk around with alcohol in Nashville?

In most public areas of Nashville, it is illegal to walk around with open containers and consume alcohol. Exceptions are made for certain entertainment districts during approved dates and times. Drinks must be purchased from vendors in designated plastic cups.

Are there any areas in Nashville where open containers are allowed?

Yes, select areas such as Lower Broadway allow open containers during weekend hours. Other areas may be approved as temporary entertainment districts for major events. However, these areas are clearly marked and access is controlled by security.

How do open container laws affect transportation in Nashville?

It’s illegal to possess open containers and consume alcohol in vehicles or while riding public transit. Rideshares and taxis may refuse service if a passenger brings open containers onboard. Plan to finish drinks before leaving bars and restaurants.


Nashville’s open container regulations aim to maintain public safety while still allowing opportunities to enjoy the city’s famous bar scene. Being aware of the laws, exceptions, and potential penalties allows both visitors and residents to make smart choices. By planning ahead and not taking open beverages on public streets, you can fully experience Nashville while avoiding legal issues. When in doubt, finish your drink indoors or pass it off to a sober friend before moving locations.