Toronto will finally allow drinking in parks this summer but there's a catch

May 15 2023, 3:26 pm

Get ready to crack a cold one in your favourite Toronto park, as City Council has finally buckled under public pressure and voted to allow alcohol consumption in parks this summer.

A motion proposing the new pilot program was approved on Friday, with the aim to have the program operational for just over two months spanning from Saturday, August 5 to Monday, October 9.

Of course, like everything good in this city, the change comes with a catch: you will only be allowed to booze up in parks where the local councillor has opted into the program.

Of the city’s 25 wards, 21 councillors voted in favour of the motion — meaning the majority of city parks will be eligible for the pilot program.

However, three councillors — Paul Ainslie, Mike Colle, and Stephen Holyday — all voted against the motion, meaning parks in Ward 24 Scarborough—Guildwood, Ward 8 Eglinton—Lawrence, and Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre will remain dry for the summer.

Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest councillor Gary Crawford was absent from the vote, leaving parks in that neck of the woods in limbo.

City staff will consult with local councillors and work to provide a list of parks most suited for the new pilot program, with the intention to report back to the Economic and Community Development Committee in early July with a recommended approach and list of the required bylaw amendments.

Council will then vote on the amendments and finalize details of the pilot project in its July meeting. If all goes according to plan, drinking will be legal in many city parks for the second half of summer and into the late patio season.

An official program for alcohol consumption in parks follows years of public pressure and even political campaigns focused on allowing drinking in parks.

However, the City notes that, while drinking in parks is still illegal on paper, “no tickets were issued for drinking in parks last year.”

There are other minor caveats, including the stipulation that park users must still acquire a permit and licence to sell or serve liquor. Other existing bylaws regarding liquor in parks will continue to be enforced during the pilot program.

Not everyone is happy about the new pilot though, and many comments on social media express disappointment with the City for not implementing a blanket legalization of drinking in city parks.

One person tweeted at Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, saying, “I will pay for your plane ticket to anywhere this is already legal so you can witness first hand fully grown responsible adults drinking in parks is not the end of the world. Stop wasting everyone’s time and just legalize it already.”

In the meanwhile, Toronto will just have to patiently await the list of approved parks for boozy outdoor adventures this summer.

Jack LandauJack Landau

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