Can You Drink on Your Stoop?

Can You Drink on Your Stoop?

Does a Brooklyn Summer Ale on a Brownstone stoop constitute “public drinking”?  Every few years, the brew-haha (#punsthatnevergetold) rears its head again, and the latest controversy comes from Boerum Hill:

On the 4th of July, law student Andrew Rausa was having a beer on his Douglass Street stoop with a couple of friends when an unmarked police car pulled up and two officers pulled up. Was it the charcoal grill they’d set up nearby, they worried? Apparently not. Standing on the other side of the wrought-iron gate in front of the brownstone in question, the officers issued the group summonses for drinking in public.

“We were all kind of stunned for a second,” Mr. Rausa said in an interview on Tuesday. “It happened over the gate. It was a very tangible physical divide — when they said the words ‘public property,’ it just didn’t make any sense.”

But according to the officers…well, we don’t actually know, because the NYPD has thus far declined to comment. Rausa says that he told the officers that he wasn’t breaking the law, since he was sitting on a private stoop behind a gate. The officers wasn’t having it.

Monetarily, at least, the summons isn’t a huge deal — a $25 fine per person. But when the group realized that the summonses would still “become blemishes on their personal records,” they decided they were going to contest. Or as Rausa put it, “we had an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”

Rausa turned to Kimber VanRy, who’s become an unofficial expert on public drinking incidents since getting his his own summons in 2008. But while VanRy is on board with Rausa’s crusade, he isn’t all that optimistic:

“There’s so much interpretation left up to the individual officer,” he said. “I tell people, honestly, I think you’re going to lose because it’s written so broadly.”

Rausa’s case isn’t the first of its kind in the city — far from it — but it could be the case that clears up the confusion: so far, no judge has clarified the gray areas in the law (VanRy’s case and another he knows of were both thrown out on technicalities).

Do you drink on the stoop (I’m looking at you, everyone in my building!)? And if the answer’s yes, will Rausa’s experience change anything? Start pour your beer into a Nalgene, high school-style? On the flip side, anyone had any stoop-drinking horror stories?