BACKGROUND: Laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol on the street have proliferated in Australia over the past 15 years. It is no coincidence that these laws have been implemented at the same time that significant advancements in urban renewal and gentrification have occurred in metropolitan cities. METHODS: This paper draws on observational research as well as interviews and/or focus groups with street drinkers, residents and service providers (police, council workers, health workers and traders). RESULTS: Environmental economic and social changes that have occurred through gentrification are central to ongoing debates around the use of public space in urban areas. CONCLUSION: The geographical exclusion of street drinkers that has occurred as a result of these laws warrants the consideration of a more socially responsible strategy than the current legislative approach.