Park board to test out liquor sales at two Vancouver beaches

The Vancouver park board decided Monday to allow alcohol sales at two Vancouver beach concessions as part of a two-year pilot project.


Want a cold beer on a Vancouver beach in the summer sunshine?

You can next year, but only at roped-off areas at two Vancouver beach concessions.

On Monday, the Vancouver park board approved a concession strategy which includes a two-year pilot to allow liquor sales at the English Bay and Kitsilano Beach concessions from May to September. 

“This is the first step,” said commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung.

It’s a bold step because it’s the first for the park board but “not that bold because it’s already happening,” she added, referring to people drinking alcohol on the sly in parks and beaches, despite public consumption carrying a $230 fine.

The park system needs to evolve with the rise of condo-dwellers who use parks as their backyards, said Kirby-Yung. “We need to give people the ability to enjoy their city.”

The two-location pilot will allow the park board to assess the feasibility of offering booze at other concessions in the next three to five years.

Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon expressed trepidation over the accessibility of liquor in public spaces, “especially at beaches (with) hot sun and alcohol.” But, he said, “it’s certainly worth a trial to see how it would go.”

There has been a growing chorus of calls from the public and politicians to loosen liquor regulations in public spaces and fix Vancouver’s reputation as a “no fun city.”

A survey found that 79 per cent of respondents were in favour of the sale of alcohol beverages at concessions, according to a park board report on its concession strategy. Sixteen per cent disagreed.

Park board general manager Malcolm Bromley said the issue is “polarizing” and the two-year trial duration is to make sure the park board gets it right. “We are in it for the long run,” he said.

The locations were chosen because the concessions already have restaurant operators — Cactus Restaurants Ltd. at English Bay and The Boathouse at Kitsilano Beach — best-suited to get the program up and running, said staff.

The pilot will be conducted beer-garden style. A section of beach at English Bay adjacent to the public walkway would be roped off, while a temporary small patio would be created outside the existing concession at Kitsilano Beach.

Some commissioners expressed concern that creating cordoned-off areas for alcohol-drinkers would encroach on public space.

Park board staff estimated liquor sales could boost sales by 30 to 50 per cent.

The proposal for the pilot was part of a broader concession strategy approved by the park board Monday.

The park board has 13 concession sites which are contracted to third-party operators who get paid a percentage of sales. In recent years, the park board earned between $500,000 to $800,000 a year from the concessions.

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