You’ve booked your flight to Key West, found the perfect accommodations and you can’t wait to walk Duval Street with a beer in hand, soaking up the sun and enjoying some quality people watching. Key West is one of those magical destinations that embrace the idea of go-cups and drinking on the beach, right? Maybe not. It depends. Does that clear it up?

The ugly truth is that it’s against the law to carry an open alcoholic beverage on the streets and beaches of Key West. Period. Plain and simple. It’s against the law. I know, you’re asking yourself “When did that change?”. Everyone knows you can carry a drink anywhere in Key West. Hell, you can walk into a bar and order drinks to go and no one bats an eye. Actually, nothing has changed because Key West has always had an open container law. It doesn’t seem fair because bars and drinking are certainly part of the lure of this town and everywhere you look people are roaming with drinks in hand. Locals and visitors alike seem to believe that it’s perfectly legal to walk down the street sipping an icy concoction from Fat Tuesday’s or an ice cold beer from a street vendor. Sadly, they are wrong.

There are only seven cities in the United States in which it is legal to walk in public with an open, alcoholic beverage. Unfortunately and very surprisingly, Key West is not one of them but don’t cry in your beer yet.

Fortunately, the city’s law enforcement officers understand that they work in a city famous for pirating, looting and well, drinking to excess. While it’s true that they can’t openly condone public drinking, they often do their best to look the other way.

Try to see the issue from the perspective of the cops. They are charged with enforcing the laws. They don’t make the laws but they have to enforce them. If they encounter someone with an open container who is making an ass of themselves by causing a disturbance or relieving themselves on the sidewalk, it makes it impossible for them to look the other way. If people are behaving badly by fighting or harassing passersby, the police have no choice but take action. If those people are also carrying open containers, then it makes it very easy for the police to apprehend and arrest.

But Feel Free to Enjoy the Party

Now that your bubble has been burst and you’re in on the truth regarding open containers, realize that you can still have a ridiculously crazy time in Key West. Feel free to enjoy the party that is Key West and sample something from every door on Duval Street, taking the occasional go-cup with you. Realize that whether you’re harassed by the cops about an open container is, in large part, up to you. Use your head and be smart about drinking in the streets.

Follow these simple rules to drinking in the streets of Key West and you should be worry free:

- Never take a glass container of any kind into the street or onto the beach

- Keep your alcoholic drinks in plastic containers. Use a lid and straw whenever possible. (Hint: Buy a reusable heavy-duty plastic drink container and fill it to the brim with the drink of your choice.)

- After having a drink at any given establishment, order your next drink in a go-cup. Tip appropriately.

- When going to the beach, avoid beer unless you’re willing to drink from a can and keep it in a coozie. Better yet, combine vodka, gin or rum with the mixer of your choice in a thermos jug and pour individual drinks into plastic cups.

- If approached by the authorities and told to dispose of your drinks, do so without argument. Wait until they’ve moved on and are out of sight and then order more go-cups.

- Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. Don’t be loud and rude. Don’t fight.

The proprietors and law enforcement officers alike want you to have the best time you possibly can while enjoying their beloved city. Help them turn a blind eye to your public drinking by being smart. If you follow these simple rules, you too can enjoy all that the Go-Cup Capital of the World has to offer.