West Vancouver is the latest municipality to uncork “responsible consumption” of alcohol in public.
Residents and visitors will soon be able pack a pilsner or pinot in their picnic at Millennium Park at the foot of 15th Street in Ambleside, following a unanimous vote by council Monday night.
District staff brought the motion forward in hopes it will give folks a place to socialize and have a tipple while indoor gatherings are prohibited under COVID-19 public health orders, and to encourage residents to buy dinner and drinks at local restaurants by giving them an ideal picnic setting.
Although there is no definition for “responsible consumption,” it should be interpreted to mean having a drink or two, or sharing a bottle of wine with someone else, staff said.If the scene were to descend into Bacchanalia or if people were to wander with their growler into other non-permitted areas, it will fall to West Vancouver police and bylaw officers to enforce with $500-fines.
In any case, staff said they are not expecting many problems, based on the City of North Vancouver’s experience. North Van city council was the first outside Quebec to approve public consumption of alcohol in a pilot project in 2020, which they later voted to make permanent.
“They found that people self-policed and that it was successful and had very few complaints,” said Corinne Ambor, parks stewardship manager for the District of West Vancouver.
When it came to a vote, it was all cheers from council.
Coun. Craig Cameron said it was long overdue and his relatives in Germany wouldn’t get what all the fuss is about.
“They wouldn't know what to make of a discussion like this. It's just seems absurd that you wouldn't be able to have a beer in the park,” he said, adding that many people already drink in parks, albeit undercover. “I can't believe the amount of staff time we've had to devote to this tiny project in one park. I wish it was less bureaucratic and I wish we could just get on with it and do it more broadly.”
He also addressed the West Vancouver Police Department's deputy chief in the meeting and suggested his officers take a hands-off approach for all but the worst offenders.
“We don't need the nanny state here. If people are causing problems, then we should address it, but otherwise, I think we should try to leave people alone to live their lives,” he said.
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said it was a good step to make in the wake of the province’s refusal to grant liquor licences to restaurants participating in the Harmony Eats festival in Millennium Park last year and she toasted staff for pulling the pilot project together so quickly.
Staff estimate it will cost $20,000 to run the pilot project between now and its expiry on Oct. 31, with funds going toward portable toilets in Millennium Park and additional garbage and recycling pickup services.
The bylaw still requires one more vote by council before it comes into effect and staff will have to post signs in the park showing the designated drinking area. The district expects that will be done by July 1.
The City of North Vancouver currently allows alcohol in marked ares within Waterfront Park, Victoria Park, Mahon Park, Grand Boulevard / Ray Perrault Park, Kings Mill Walk Park, Shipbuilders Square and Cates Deck at Shipbuilders Square.
District of North Vancouver council has not debated allowing alcohol in public.