British Columbia

Vancouver approves pilot project to allow outdoor drinking at select city plazas

The City of Vancouver is launching a temporary, bring-your-own-booze-style pilot program to allow the public to drink outdoors at select plazas for two months.

People will be allowed to drink at 4 select sites between Aug. 10 and mid-October

šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énk Square is one of four public plazas in Vancouver chosen for a pilot project allowing the public to drink outdoors between mid-August and mid-October. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The City of Vancouver is launching a temporary, bring-your-own-booze-style pilot program to allow the public to drink outdoors at select plazas for two months.

City councillors unanimously approved the Alcohol Consumption in Public Spaces program during a special council meeting on Wednesday. 

The pilot will run from Aug. 10 to Oct. 12 at these four sites:

  • šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énk Square (Vancouver Art Gallery – North Plaza)
  • Lot 19 at 900 Cordova St.
  • Bute-Robson Plaza at 800 Bute St.
  • Temporary pop-up plaza at Cambie Street and West 17th Avenue

Drinking will be permitted at the Cambie Street plaza, the Bute-Robson Plaza and Lot 19 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT. Consumption at šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énk Square won't be allowed until noon, but also goes until 9 p.m.

The pilot is meant to give residents an opportunity to socialize and drink outdoors, where it's easier to stay in line with physical distancing rules. It's also designed to offer a gathering place for residents who don't have their own outdoor spaces, such as balconies, backyards or patios.

City councillors have been under pressure in recent months to provide Vancouverites with looser options around outdoor drinking, as the pandemic has made it near-impossible for groups to get together indoors without violating public health guidelines.

The plaza pilot is separate from a motion withdrawn last month to allow drinking at parks and beaches. Those spaces are under the jurisdiction of the Vancouver Park Board.

Unable to change the rules for parks and beaches, the city instead focused its efforts on plazas. 

Sites are close to food, transit

The four sites included in the pilot will be managed and monitored in partnership with local Business Improvement Associations (BIAs), according to a statement from the city on Thursday.

It said the BIAs were invited to propose suitable sites before the locations were ultimately chosen.

"Each of the spaces are in commercial areas with access to food and transit, which are key factors in promoting safety and visibility," the city said.

"The pilot locations will be monitored regularly and the data collected will also inform longer-term policy development around public spaces," it added.

The City of North Vancouver began allowing people to drink alcohol legally in nine parks as of last month. 

In the Okanagan, Penticton ran a one-month trial allowing alcohol consumption between noon and 8 p.m. on some waterfront beaches and parks. 

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