In 2015, the Seattle Police Department issued 1,423 tickets for the class III civil infraction of opening and consuming liquor in public. In 2019, it issued 326 such tickets. In 2020, we are in the middle of a pandemic. And the consensus in the scientific community is this: being outdoors in public is far safer than being indoors in public.
So, on the one hand, we have a civility law that is less and less enforced by the SPD (although of course, if they feel like picking on you, this law allows them to). And on the other, we have scientists maintaining that the risk of catching the virus "is definitely lower outdoors.” If we bring these two facts together, then we must conclude that abolishing the "consume/possess open container of liquor in public" infraction makes perfect sense.
People want to drink outside, but they also do not want to break the law. And it's not so much the ticket that matters (it's not too dear, $27) but more the fear of having a bad encounter with the police.
2020 also happens be the year of the Black Lives Matter movement. This development was initiated by the murder of George Floyd on May 25. The black Minneapolitan was accused of using a fake $20 bill to purchase a packet of cigarettes. The cops arrested him and then killed him. So, if $20 is all it takes for a police encounter to go from zero to lethal, the general feeling is that the fewer encounters the police has with the public (and with black people in particular), the better. Let the black man drink in public in peace.
So, the abolishment of the public drinking violation has a clear pandemic benefit—and an obvious Black Lives Matter benefit. To these benefits we can also add a benefit for a class of businesses (bars) hit very hard by another major 2020 event, the economic crash caused by the lockdown and the government's failure to make the pandemic manageable.
Conversations with the owners of such establishments around town soon reveals a common concern: they need more business to make ends meet. Social distancing indoors might be effective but it's a money loser. Also, because our leaders were too sheepish to impose a long-term moratorium on rent, bars are paying through the nose while business is non-existent or slow.
The economic situation of our struggling bars would be much improved if they could sell booze to people who want to drink openly while walking down a street, or sit in a nearby park. There already exists a variety of cocktails to-go, and from what I've heard, they are not half bad (wine is my choice of tipple). But why should one have to worry about cops while sipping a cocktail in public? What is the logic in that? It's just unnecessary.
In these barbaric times, we should try to be civilized about such matters. Public drinking does no harm and it also stops the police from harassing people who are forced to drink outside because they do not have a home.