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Vancouver to consider allowing alcohol in certain public spaces outside beaches and parks

VANCOUVER —
Imagine sitting on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery and having a beer with the grilled cheese sandwich you just bought from a food truck.

Two Vancouver city councillors are pitching the idea to create designated public spaces for the consumption of alcohol.

“It’s not going to be possible for all restaurants to have patios,” said Pete Fry, who co-submitted the motion with follow Green councillor Michael Wiebe.

The motion calls for working with Vancouver police and city staff to ensure public safety is maintained, and amenities like garbage and washroom facilities are made available.

Fry said possible locations could also include side streets in some neighbourhoods that could be turned into plazas if they are closed to vehicle traffic, pointing to Commercial Drive as a possibility for this.

“The key point being responsible consumption,” Fry added, “so it’s not about creating wild and crazy, beer garden, yahoo kind of experiences, but allowing us to come together and have a bottle of wine and chat about what it’s been like for the last couple of months.”

The city is already limiting cars on some streets to free up room for physical distancing.

Another motion on the agenda is aimed at the long-debated issue of allowing drinking in parks and beaches.

Parks and beaches are the jurisdiction of the Vancouver Park Board, which voted in December 2018 to study the feasibility of starting a pilot program to allow alcohol in some parks, but OneCity councillor Christine Boyle says that study has been delayed.

She’s drafted a motion calling for the city to work with the board and the province to allow responsible consumption in beaches and parks as soon as possible.

“I bike around with my family and we see people picnicking in nooks of parks all over the place,” Boyle said, “what we’re seeing is people acting responsibly.”

As for ensuring that public drinking doesn’t get out of hand, Boyle pointed to existing rules that already maintain public order, such as laws against public intoxication, public disturbances, and the 10 p.m. closure of parks and beaches.

“For something we’re all kind of looking the other way on anyway, we shouldn’t be punishing people,” Boyle said.

Both motions will be heard during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, which will be conducted virtually.

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