Recent developments have shed light on the legality of drinking alcohol outdoors in Poland, sparking debate about what should and should not be permitted.
According to reports, the police in Poznan wanted to bring river embankments under the ambit of places where drinking alcohol should be prohibited, and thereby liable to a stipulated fine.
As it stands, river embankments not technically classified as parks , streets or any other area deemed officially as a 'public place', are in fact locations were drinking alcohol is not forbidden (subject to variations in local law).
However, the police in Poznan recently expressed their intention to include even the non designated parts of river embankments under the list of areas where drinking alcohol is treated as an offence. The city authorities in Poznan nonetheless rejected the proposal and as of today, certain river embankments continue to be areas where alcohol consumption is not banned.
What is defined as a public place?
- squares, streets and sidewalks
- paved hiking trails
- areas nearby railtracks
- public roads and lanes
- canals and areas of river enbankments where it is possible to dock
- green areas for public use (parks, squares, etc)
- cemeteries and monuments
- the interior of buildings for public use, as well as the surrounding gardens and courtyard
- public transportation
In the case of Wroclaw, there are certain areas by the river embankments that are deemed as a public place like a street or park, thereby making drinking alcohol there a punishable offence. One such spot is of course the famous Słodowa Island, which has been shut off between 10pm and 10am for over a year now to stop young crowds flouting the law by drinking beer and spirits well into the early hours.
There are however areas in the city where the embankments are not considered to be public places as they are somewhat hidden away from built up areas. In theory, the same rule can be applied to some areas of forests, lakes and mountains too. Some of these spots are popular with students and other young Wroclawians, who often use the space for barbeques during the summer season. However, this does not always go down too well with parents accompanied by their children and the city's elderly population.
Often students are in favour of maintaining the status quo regarding these few embankments where alcohol consumption is permitted. Students have also complained that police have come to these areas to spoil their fun and dish out fines, with there being many cases whereby people are not aware of the intricacies of the law – allowing the police to punish them with fines for drinking alcohol where it is actually not illegal to do so.
Meanwhile others (particularly families with children and the elderly population) are in favour of making all river embankments booze free, as they are unhappy about people littering the river and its surrounding embankments, as well as creating noise levels beyond tolerable limits.
As you can see, this is certainly a delicate matter that will need to be attended to by the relevant authorities in Wroclaw in one way or another. Meanwhile, if you are to have a 'responsible drink' in Poland's great outdoors, it is imperative to be aware of the nuances of the laws so as to neither violate them nor end up paying an unjust fine.