Youth council wants Edmonton to end liquor ban at picnic sites

The city’s youth council wants the city to allow Edmontonians to crack a cold one at the city’s designated picnic sites.

City urged to allow liquor consumption in select public park spaces

The City of Edmonton Youth Council is hoping city councillors will cheer their plans for liquor-friendly picnic sites. (CBC)

The city's youth council wants the city to allow Edmontonians to crack a cold one at the city's designated picnic sites.

The City of Edmonton Youth Council will make a recommendation at the community and public services committee meeting Wednesday, urging the city to allow liquor consumption in select public park spaces.

Youth council member Thomas Banks said the campaign was inspired by a flute of bubbly he enjoyed last summer in the river valley.

It could have been a costly drink. It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places, including city parks. Enjoying a few sips of champagne could have landed Banks a $115 fine.

"I was sitting in the park, Hawrelak Park, and I was having a picnic with a few of my friends and we had champagne with us," Banks said in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"And it was mentioned by one of my friends that according to current law, you can not publicly consume alcohol in parks. 

"And I thought to myself, how can these restrictions be justified?"

Banks was shocked by the outright prohibition and began researching city regulations.

There is an appetite for relaxed liquor laws, and now is the perfect time for city planners to uncork their own set of relaxed regulations, Banks said.

'Prohibition-era restrictions'

Premier Jason Kenney recently vowed to end the "war on fun" by relaxing liquor regulations at select provincial park day-use area picnic sites later this summer. Existing provincial legislation already allows for alcohol at picnic sites if signs are posted by the proprietor.

Calgary and other cities allow liquor consumption in designated picnic sites, Banks said.

All Edmonton would need to do to follow suit is erect a few signs setting out the hours when liquor may be consumed with food, Banks said.

And boozy picnics could just be the beginning. 

"I think it's important to have this conversation because as we've seen, there has been a movement by the provincial government to roll back the Prohibition-era restrictions," Banks said. 

"This change could act as a test case."

Unlawful consumption of alcohol is not currently a problem in the city, Banks said. In 2018, the city issued 21 tickets for violations. In 2017, 32 tickets were issued.

Liquor friendly picnic sites would make instead city parks more livable and inclusive, Banks said.  The current prohibitions prevent Edmontonians from enjoying their parks to the fullest, he said.

While the city can only regulate consumption at picnic sites, the youth council would like to see municipalities gain more control over regulation.

If the provincial laws were to change, other parkland areas like outdoor theatres, slo-pitch fields and ravine parks would also be great candidates for deregulation, Banks said.

"Alcohol at park picnic sites does not mean condoning behaviour that's distasteful or trespasses upon people's rights to use and enjoy the parks," he said.

"We want to have all Edmontonians, including youth, to be able to use the parks to the greatest extent possible, because they pay for these parks."