Booze on the beach? Penticton council to vote on pilot to allow alcohol at some parks and beaches
Proposed bylaw change would allow drinking at six parks and beaches until July 4
The city of Penticton, B.C., is considering a plan to allow people to drink alcohol at some waterfront parks and beaches as part of a one-month pilot project to help boost the local economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
City council will vote on a staff recommendation to amend bylaws to allow alcohol consumption by adults from noon until 8 p.m. on Okanagan Beach and five parks on or near the Okanagan Lake waterfront from June 3 until July 4.
"In many parts of Europe, for example, having an alcoholic beverage is just part of the norm and it is not always associated with a negative context," said councillor Campbell Watt, who brought the idea to city council.
Watt said he thinks residents can drink responsibly at the beach or parks with their family members or friends and that the idea will help local restaurants, brewery and wineries impacted by the pandemic.
"I think it is really important that we find ways to encourage people to get out of their homes," Watt said.
"If we can encourage residents to get take out from their favourite restaurant, perhaps a beverage from their favourite brewery or winery and have the ability to go to a park or the beach to get out of their homes, I just thought is was a natural fit for the timing."
Health implications with public drinking at beaches
Currently people caught drinking alcohol at public beaches or parks could be handed a $100 fine. That would cease during the pilot, if it is adopted by Penticton city council at their regular meeting on Tuesday.
City of Penticton staff consulted with several stakeholders including residents in the area, the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, the RCMP and the Interior Health Authority, among other groups.
The health authority indicated some concerns with public drinking on beaches and in parks, including the risk of normalizing public drinking for youth and the likelihood the pilot would draw more people to these areas when officials are encouraging the public to adhere to COVID-19 protocols, according to a staff report.
If adopted the pilot would run for one month and the city would collect public feedback.
Not everyone in the community approves of the idea.
"Penticton should have learned that lesson back when the riots shut us down for a couple of years. Families do not want their life disrupted this way," wrote resident Elevena Slump in a letter to the editor published in the local newspaper, referring to the infamous public riot that happened during Peachfest in 1991 during where intoxicated youth rolled a large peach-shaped ice cream stand down the beach and into Okanagan Lake after an M.C. Hammer concert.
"Penticton bills itself as a family tourist community. We have been proud of that over the years let's keep it that way."
Allowing public drinking at beaches during the COVID-19 pandemic has also been discussed at Vancouver and Vernon city councils, and North Vancouver plans to discuss drinking outside today.
Vernon council asked staff to prepare a report on the idea and in Vancouver the Park Board is responsible for alcohol consumption bylaws.
The city of Kelowna said it is not considering allowing drinking at public beaches or parks at this time.