Vancouver councillors mull motion allowing alcohol consumption in public spaces

May 25 2020, 10:02 am

On Tuesday, City Council will discuss two separate motions that, if passed, would push for legalized alcohol consumption across Vancouver.

The first motion was announced by Councillor Christine Boyle earlier this May. She proposes that the City “legalize alcohol consumption in Vancouver parks and beaches.” In order to do so, however, a bylaw change would be required by the Vancouver Park Board (VPB).

That means that if this particular motion were passed, City Council would play an “advocacy role, in encouraging the Park Board to amend the Parks Control By-Laws,” according to Boyle.

The second motion being introduced on Tuesday comes from Councillors Fry and Wiebe. It looks at designating public, city-owned spaces for the “responsible consumption of alcohol.”

Fry and Wiebe write that the health and safety measures introduced to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have “limited the ability for Vancouverites to socialize” in their homes or licensed public establishments.

The councillors also cite a city report earlier this month that recommended using public spaces for eating and gathering, as well as closing side streets to create plazas.

“We’ve heard from folks about the need to connect socially while physically distancing,” writes Councillor Fry on social media. “With apartments or where patio access isn’t an option, a few drinks with friends becomes an equity issue.”

He adds that while parks and beaches remain under the jurisdiction of the VPB, the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Act allows cities to”pass a bylaw that allows liquor consumption” in city-owned public spaces. The act also allows for cities to designate specific hours that the new privileges would be in effect.

If the motion were passed, City staff would prepare a bylaw pursuant to create temporary and time-limited spaces. Staff would also consult with the Vancouver Police Department and local Business Improvement Associations to “recommend appropriate locations and hours.” Factors like public safety, crime prevention, access to restroom facilities, distance to other residents, and access to garbage and recycling would also be considered.

Park Board’s feasibility study on public alcohol consumption

In late 2018, the Vancouver Park Board forwarded a motion to conduct a “feasibility study” on a pilot project that would allow the public to consume their own alcoholic beverages at parks and beaches.

The motion was put forth by Green Party park commissioner Dave Demers, who expressed the need to change the Park Board’s strict liquor rules ahead of the 2018 municipal election. He started a petition to raise awareness and gain support for the pilot program.

Staff were to report back to the park board by the end of 2019 with study findings, including results from the consultation and any potential legal, logistical, societal, and financial considerations.

With files from Simran Singh.

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