Sponsored By

Think Before You Drink: Alcohol in Ocean City

It’s certainly tempting – the picturesque landscape of the sun, sand, and glistening water. The urge to enjoy a drink by the sea is certainly powerful, but nonetheless, drinking alcohol of any kind on Ocean City’s beaches is not only illegal, but extremely unsafe. 

Compounded by the heat, the dehydrating and disorienting effects of alcohol and impaired judgment, one can understand why Ocean City does not allow alcohol on its beach. Alcohol depletes the body of the vital fluids it needs to keep a person up and running throughout the day and it can also give swimmers a false sense of confidence when it comes to ocean swimming.

Many tourists are unfamiliar with the strict yet paramount laws and ordinances the resort town has enacted to protect its residents and tourists alike. 

Open Containers 

Whether your alcohol is prominently on display in a can or disguised in a hydro flask, the law prohibits open containers of any kind. In fact, holding alcohol in a glass container falls in violation of an additional ordinance. In all cases, stay away from public consumption of alcoholic beverages on the beach, sidewalks, and while walking along the Boardwalk.

Some beach patrons know the law, but choose to disobey and take their alcohol to the beach and then attempt to hide the behavior from the beach patrol.

Since 2012, public consumption of alcohol has been classified as a criminal offense in Ocean City. If caught with an open container, offenders could face up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Don’t let paradise turn into a nightmare – be smart!

Think Before You Drink: Tragedy Can Strike 

Almost every guard has a story about rescuing a swimmer who drank too much alcohol. A person who has a healthy understanding of the ocean and their own swimming ability might not usually head out very far, but after a few drinks they might find themselves feeling braver. They take risks they usually would not and can end up hurting themselves in any number of ways, from riding a wave into the shallow water and injuring themselves or swimming out farther than they should.

Years ago, a young man who was in town celebrating his high school graduation had too many drinks and took a headfirst dive into two inches of water. He is now paralyzed from the neck down.

Over time, it has become clear that many diving-related accidents and most of the heat-related illness have a direct correlation to alcohol consumption. When it comes to heat emergencies, the alcohol consumption may have been more than 12 hours before the incident. We know that from a safety perspective “alcohol and water don’t mix.”

Many of our more serious incidents over the years have involved intoxicated beach patrons that do things after drinking that they would never do if sober. The sad fact is, that many lives have been altered or affected in a permanent way by alcohol related incidents or injuries, both in the water and on the streets, highways and crosswalks of Ocean City. Most of our pedestrian accidents, several of which are fatal each year, involve alcohol for either the driver or the pedestrian who stepped into the path of the oncoming vehicle.

Not only is the life of the victim of a paralyzing injury or accident affected, but so are the lives of the family members who are often left caring for that individual following the injury. Another, issue with intoxicated “swimmers” is that reaction time and physical ability are diminished and often lead to the person finding themselves in trouble in the water and in need of help.

If this occurs between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. they will be lucky enough to be rescued by an SRT, although following the rescue these individuals do not do very well and are often transported to a medical facility for further evaluation (we had several the past few summers). Although we do a very good job of keeping these people safe while we are on duty regardless of how reckless they are, we unfortunately respond to several off-duty “swimmer in distress” calls each season, some of which are fatal and almost all are alcohol related.

Respect the Beach Patrol

This makes the job of the Surf Rescue Technician (lifeguard) on duty who is responsible to monitor and enforce all activities on the beach as well as in the water much more challenging. To some it appears as a game, to see if they can conceal their illegal activity from the beach patrol while the SRT attempts to perform their job and enforce all of Ocean City laws and ordinances. The result is that your SRT has to divide their responsibilities between protecting people in the water and pleading with “adults” to follow the rules.

The beach patrol and your SRT work very hard to enforce the laws and ordinances of the Town of Ocean City. But we need your help. Please do your part and obey the laws and listen to the SRT and keep the alcohol off the beach. Violation of these laws is a criminal offense and may lead to arrest and will absolutely require another trip to Ocean City, but this time for a court date.

We hope you will have a wonderful time on your vacation in Ocean City, but we also want you to remember to drink when and where it is safe and legal to do so. And always remember “Keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard’s in the stand!”

Planning to Drink? Ride the Bus

If you’re going to drink, don’t swim, and take a bus or cab to get home safe. The Ocean City Beach Bus runs from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily all summer long, with stops every 15 minutes. An all-day pass costs $3 and exact change is necessary.

Plus, riders can now track buses using the new locator app. Click here to download and for more information.

Along with not driving, don’t walk either! Wait for the bus. Since 2018, Ocean City has had a median fence 2.7 miles long, between 40th and 62nd Streets. The fence has helped to reduce pedestrian and vehicle collisions, as well as jaywalking, which can be especially dangerous when someone is under the influence.

Reminders from OCPD 

Alcohol reminder from OCPD

  • The Ocean City Police Department enforces a strict zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking. Underage drinking and intoxication often lead to unintended consequences such as becoming a victim of a crime or violating additional laws. The Ocean City Police Department also proactively enforces drug laws. During the month of June and throughout the entire year, detectives in plain clothes conduct undercover buy-bust operations throughout the town to prevent the sale and purchase of drugs in Ocean City.
  • The Ocean City Police Department participates in the R.A.A.M program. R.A.A.M. stands for Reducing Alcohol Availability to Minors. This initiative is designed to address underage drinking. An essential component of the R.A.A.M program is the great partnership that has been formed with the Ocean City Business Community. Without their help, this program would not be successful. This enforcement takes place at area bars, restaurants, and alcohol retailers throughout the resort. The purpose of this operation is to ensure that employees of businesses that provide alcohol are making a concerted effort to avoid selling to individuals under the age of 21. Personnel under the age of 21, accompanied by plainclothes law enforcement officers, will be visiting bars, restaurants, and alcohol retailers attempting to purchase alcoholic beverages.
  • The Ocean City Police Department would like to remind all business owners that serving alcohol to underage citizens is not only illegal but can have a detrimental impact on their business and the underage individual involved. The OCPD encourages everyone to obey all alcohol regulations to ensure a safer resort town.

Data regarding alcohol citations is not yet available for 2022, but the OCPD reported 1,008 citations in 2019, slightly higher than 757 in 2020 and 870 in 2021.

Fake IDs

While police officers and local businessmen have sought to catch people using fake IDs for years in bars and restaurants, the town is now cracking down in a major way. Numerous restaurants have adopted the BiSU ID scanner, allowing them to judge the legitimacy of an ID instantly.

Using false identification is a criminal offense that can result in a fine and/or loss of license.

Kristin Joson
Kristin Josonhttp://oceancitymd.gov/oc/departments/emergency-services/beach-patrol/
Kristin Joson has been working with the Ocean City Beach Patrol for 14 years. She is the Public Education Coordinator where her main responsibility is to work with public to fulfill the first part of the OCBP mission which is Education. The OCBP mission consists of 3 components Education, Prevention, and Intervention. By educating the public about beach safety, we believe there will be fewer instances where an intervention will be necessary. In the offseason, she is an Learning Resource Teacher in Charles County where she is the Testing Coordinator and the Gifted Resource Teacher for Berry Elementary School . The OCBP consists of over 200 men and women dedicated to ocean rescue and maintaining a safe and orderly environment on Ocean City’s beach. The Surf Rescue Technicians guard the beach seven days a week from 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Always introduce yourself to the lifeguard on your beach, they are more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Plan Your Trip
OceanCity.com Recommends

Follow Oceancity.com

Captain's Table Restaurant, Ocean City, MD

More articles



  1. Sorry but I’ve never been to a single beach in my life that someone isn’t enjoying a drink on. There are idiots everywhere that do stupid things why ruin it for the 99% of the population doing nothing wrong. If it was something that they could make a buck off of you better believe they’d allow it!!!! Once they figure out a way to charge people for drinking on the beach it will be legal! Has 0 to do with safety etc…. All about the $$$$$$

    • You nailed it, Dana! It’s all about city revenue and control over people. I just wonder who the hell votes those people into office…who do they represent? We’re a nation of endless and ridiculous ‘laws’

  2. I’ve been going to the beach in O.C. all my life. Alcohol is served by hotels that are located ocean side all along the beach. This law is silly for that reason alone. There so many rules for the beach now it’s ridiculous. No frisbees, ballls, smoking,dogs…. You used to be able to rent a raft at every umbrella stand. I’m assuming they are prohibited as well Pretty soon all you’ll be able to do is sit and look at the water. Shhh! No talking! That’s against the rules and don’t even think about going in that water. Didn’t you read the sign?

  3. some places,Sand Castle serve on the beach.If it is a law,it is a public beach,why should it be ok if the hotel serves it ? Why would you need a drink on the beach other than water or soda ?

  4. I get it. It is illegal to consume alcohol ON THE BEACH. But. You should realize that there are hundreds of restaurants just off the beach that will serve you in your bathing suit ALL DAY LONG. IMO the law is archaic and does nothing to curb alcohol consumption of individuals that are on vacation. And lets be honest the law isnt enforced on the beaches anyways. What you end up with is adults chugging their drinks trying not to get caught. Change the law to allow alcohol consumption by adults on the beach and you just might find that the people chugging their drinks and the drunkeness that comes from it disappears. Not trying to be a menace. Just trying to make everyone safer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here