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Vancouverites already drink in parks, so why not make it legal?: councillors
On Friday, May 22, 2020, the field near Sunset Beach in Vancouver's West End was filled with people gathering with friends. (CTV)
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver city council will consider two separate motions that propose loosening up restrictions that currently ban drinking alcohol in parks, on beaches and in other public spaces.
The motions come as B.C. moves into Phase 2 of its restart plan following recommendations that prevented normal socializing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. More people are now heading to city parks to meet with friends in person after two months of mostly staying home and socializing only with members of their own household.
A motion drafted by Coun. Christine Boyle of the OneCity party proposes that the city work with the Vancouver Park Board to allow alcohol consumption in parks.
A separate motion from two Green Party councillors, Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe, proposes that the city create a new bylaw that would allow drinking in "select public places," like public plazas.
In her motion, Boyle says that many people have a beer or a glass of wine in parks already, and COVID-19 restrictions have sent many more people into city parks to meet with friends and socialize. City residents who live in apartments and condominiums also don't have the luxury of being able to hold such gatherings in their own backyard, Boyle wrote in her motion.
While there is no data on whether low-income people or people of colour are more likely to face enforcement of Vancouver city bylaws, Boyle wrote, "unconscious class and race biases are commonly acknowledged to exist, and may play a role both in what incidents enforcement officers are called to respond to, and how they respond to those incidents."
Fry and Wiebe's motion suggests using the city's existing powers to pass a bylaw that would allow residents to drink in specific public areas, like a public plaza. The bylaw would allow people to drink openly for a specific time period, and would be temporary.
Fry and Wiebe are proposing the city consult with the Vancouver Police Department, city staff and business groups to determine the best locations to allow drinking.
The Vancouver Park Board was already set to start a feasibility study for a pilot project to allow alcohol in some parks, Boyle notes, but that study has now been delayed.
In her motion, Boyle said that when it comes to public drunkenness and disorderly behavior, "laws at the provincial and federal levels prohibiting public intoxication, causing a public disturbance, or consuming alcohol under-age, apply across Vancouver."
Boyle added that Vancouver also has noise bylaws, and parks close to the public at 10 p.m.
Both motions are on the agenda for the May 26 city council meeting.