Mobile craft-beer trucks in Toronto parks could become a reality

Toronto's Parks and Environment committee will vote on a recommendation to study the feasibility of allowing mobile craft beer trucks into city parks on Friday.

The idea is still in its early stages with the city's Parks committee expected to vote on a study

Some local residents say not enough consultation was done on the the new Stanley Park Brewing location. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

Toronto's Parks and Environment committee will vote Friday on a recommendation to study the feasibility of allowing mobile craft beer trucks into city parks.  

Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32 Beaches-East York), the committee's chair, proposed the study. She says the idea took root after a visit to a parks conference in Minneapolis where she learned of a similar program in Philadelphia: Parks on Tap. 

"If they can do it, we can do it," she told CBC Toronto.

Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32) says craft beer trucks will animate Toronto parks, rather than cause pademonium and public drunkenness. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Anyone drinking or selling alcohol in Toronto parks can only do so by permit but McMahon says there is currently a "colossal amount of bureaucratic red-tape to get a beer garden at an event."

Special arrangements, such as enclosed areas where alcohol is served and security, are typical requirements for the permits.   

Steve Himel, general manager of Henderson Brewing says it's too costly.

"We've done a few events where even if we sell beer all weekend to an enthusiastic crowd, we come out losing money because of all the requirements the city asks of us," he said in an interview.

Small breweries excluded from local opportunities.

Himel says that as a small craft brewery, his company doesn't get the opportunity to connect with customers as much as the big manufacturers do.

"The idea of being able to get out into our community and introduce ourselves to people all throughout the city would be an incredible opportunity," he said. 

He believes that such opportunities are more available to local entrepreneurs in other industries. 

Steve Himel, manager and co-founder fo The Henderson Brewing Company says craft beer trucks in the park would be an incredible opportunity for microbreweries to engage with their local communities. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC )

"Farmers' markets are packed with people experiencing artisans and small businesses in their community," he explained. "We have been excluded from that as small brewers."

'There's not going to be pandemonium.'

McMahon agrees, saying the benefits, like showcasing local entrepreneurs, outweigh the opposition. 

"It's not going to be pandemonium. It's not going to create open drunkenness in parks. It's just civilized beverage offerings," she said.

Oliver Levai, a local resident, believes that craft beer trucks in parks are "a very innovative idea."

"Most people come to the park and bring alcohol with them anyway," said Levai. "We might as well capitalize on that."

Levai adds however that it may be a good idea to consider the initiative on a park-by-park basis. "If you're going to go somewhere that's more child-related, you may have to veto what's acceptable and what's not, depending on the demographic that uses the park."

Local parkgoer, Oliver Levai says mobile craft beer tracks in Toronto parks is an "innovative idea." (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

Councillor McMahon says she is asking for a city-wide study.

"We have to figure out how and where people can drink," she said.

Drinking illegally in Toronto parks can result in a $360 fine. Nonetheless, McMahon says the reality is that people are already drinking in parks so there needs to be a "loosening up of those rules."

If approved, the study will be submitted by January 2018 and the next steps will be decided then.