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‘Beer on the Beach’ picnic protest to push for legal public drinking in Vancouver

No B.C. cities allow drinking in parks, beaches, but they could
March 2016: No B.C. cities allow drinking in parks, beaches, but they could

Should cities like Vancouver allow people to enjoy a glass of beer or wine at beaches and public parks?

One craft beer consumer group thinks so, and it’s staging a “family friendly” protest at English Bay this Sunday to make their case.

LISTEN: Should Vancouverites be allowed to enjoy a beer or wine in public?

The event, dubbed “Beer on the Beach: A Picnic Protest,” calls on the public to descend on the beach to have a picnic and crack a beer at noon on Sunday.

WATCH: Vancouver considers allowing beer on the beach

Vancouver considers allowing beer on the beach
Vancouver considers allowing beer on the beach

“There will be no beer for sale or supplied to anyone at the event; but some of us will be bringing a beer to drink responsibly at the event as a form of protest,” said the event’s description.

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“People are expected to behave intelligently and responsibly. We will be notifying the Vancouver Police Department and they can choose to send officers to oversee it if they so choose.”

READ MORE: Should you be allowed to drink in public in BC?

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) president David Perry said that after fruitless discussions with the city, he decided to push for a public conversation about the issue, and cut into the perception that alcohol in public inevitably brings trouble with it.

“We’re not saying that everyone should be allowed to walk down the street with a two-six of vodka because that’s just disastrous. There’s glass on the ground, there’s potential for serious danger there,” Perry said.

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“But we want to open up the conversation and say listen, is it that bad if someone wants to sit down at a beach, on a park bench, enjoy their favourite spot in their local community with a drink?”

READ MORE: City staff propose changes to Vancouver’s liquor policies

Perry admits that problems can crop up when people drink too much, but said that laws are already on the books for issues like aggressive behaviour, littering, or mischief.

“I think it’s time we stop treating people like children, and yeah, absolutely we should be holding people accountable. If someone’s getting violent, rowdy, inappropriate — there are laws in place for that. Those laws should be enforced.”

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An obscure provision in B.C.’s liquor laws that allows public drinking has been on the books for years, so long as both municipalities and the general manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch approve.

A scenic view at twilight of Sunset Beach on the West End’s waterfront, English Bay, Vancouver, B.C., September 30, 2015.
A scenic view at twilight of Sunset Beach on the West End’s waterfront, English Bay, Vancouver, B.C., September 30, 2015. Bayne Stanley/CP

In January of this year, after consulting with municipalities and police forces, the province loosened that provision to allow municipalities and regional districts to allow public drinking in designated areas without provincial approval, so long as signs are posted.

No such areas currently exist in Vancouver.

Alcohol consumption while picnicking is currently permitted in public places in Alberta and Quebec, and many other cities around the world.

Alberta requires a sign to be posted listing hours when drinking is permitted, and it bans consumption by people who appear intoxicated or who are not eating while drinking.

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Perry said he’d rather not see drinking limited to designated areas, but said he is open to the idea if it starts a public conversation about changing the rules.

READ MORE: Should beer be sold at some Vancouver beaches?

He argued that normalizing the responsible consumption of alcohol in public places could actually make people safer.

“People are [already] drinking in public. People are at beaches, are consuming, and they’re doing it secretly,” he said.

“When you’re doing it secretly it’s going to be more dangerous because you’re trying to sneak it into your body and you’re trying to do it when no one’s looking. And lo and behold, you’ve probably consumed more than you were used to and you’re trying to down it so fast.”

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The City of Vancouver deferred questions about the event to Vancouver police.

The VPD said it is aware of the protest, and that officers will patrol the beach as normal on Sunday.

However, it said enforcement decisions are left up to the discretion of individual officers.

Perry said he expects police to take a hands-off approach, similar to how they addressed the city’s 4/20 pot protest.

Do you think public drinking should be permitted in Vancouver’s parks and beaches? Vote below.

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