Beach, booze. Not so fast

In the Hampton Roads area, many localities do not allow you to drink on the beach (WYDaily Photo/ Courtesy of Pixabay)
In the Hampton Roads area, many localities do not allow you to drink on the beach (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Pixabay)

Memorial Day is associated with remembering military service members who died in action, parades, family cook-outs, beach days and of course, alcohol.

In Hampton Roads, localities like Williamsburg, York County, James City County, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach have beachfronts, public water access and parks where people can frequent for the holidays. However, not all of those areas allow visitors to drink on the beach.

In Williamsburg, York County and James City County, each city ordinances does not allow people to drink publicly unless there is a special use permit obtained by the city to serve alcohol.

“With these special events, there is a defined area where alcohol may be consumed; and these events typically require the event holder to hire off duty police officers to make sure the event plans are followed and enforce any violations,” Charles Ericsson, spokesman for the Williamsburg Police Department, wrote in an email.

The localities prohibit open containers and people who violate the rules can receive anything from a warning to a class 4 misdemeanor with a fine.

In Virginia, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol, but there are some exceptions to the rule.

Capt. Dennis Ivey, spokesman for the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, said those who violate the law are given a “common sense warning,” meaning either get rid of the alcohol, if it is an open container, or put it in the trunk of your car.

How about the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach? Norfolk?

“You can’t drink in public here at all,” said Linda Kuehn, master police officer and spokeswoman for the Virginia Beach Police Department.

The city has a no open container policy, despite being a tourist destination, and depending on the circumstances, people who don’t comply can get a class 4 misdemeanor, or up to a $250 fine, Kuehn said.

Norfolk and Newport News have a similar code, which means drinking at Ocean View or Huntington Beach is off limits.

“As far as alcohol on Virginia public parks, state law permits alcohol use only in private areas, inside a cabin or camping unit, or in areas designated on permits issued by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control,” Brandon Maynard, spokesman for the Newport News Police Department, wrote in an email.

It’s unclear what the rules are in Hampton and how the regulations are enforced. The city’s code doesn’t allow people to drink alcohol.

WYDaily reached out to the police department multiple times for comment but a representative was not immediately available.

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John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.