Changes to a decades-old government policy that prohibited drinking and dancing at Capital Plaza have made way for more festivals to permanently set up at the downtown Edmonton site.
Members of the provincial government gathered at the site on the Alberta Legislature grounds on Wednesday morning, as dozens of restaurants were setting up for the Taste of Edmonton festival.
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The annual outdoor food festival is the second event to take advantage of the new festival site this summer, after being forced out of Churchill Square due to ongoing LRT construction.
“There is a need for safe, accessible public spaces where organizations can host these events,” Alberta MLA David Shepherd said.
“This is going to provide an even greater opportunity to use this space.”
The change in location wasn’t as simple as packing up and moving a few blocks down the road. Up until this spring, an Alberta government policy — which dates back more than 30 years — prohibited drinking and dancing on the provincial site.
Fast forward to now, people will be able to enjoy a beer or glass of wine, and dance to their heart’s content.
“A lot has in fact changed since 1985 and we really did need to update the policy,” Alberta Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen said. “For the first time in history, the new policy includes the ability for large festivals to provide responsible liquor service on the legislature grounds.
“You can lounge around here with a craft beer, hopefully not all day long,” Jansen added with a laugh.
The policy change will allow more festivals and events to permanently make the move to the downtown location, if they choose.
The first Edmonton festival to call Capital Plaza home this summer was the Works Art & Design Festival, which wrapped up earlier this month. Jansen said the government heard great feedback about the festival and its new location.
“Now when we stand and look around we say, ‘Yeah, this makes perfect sense. This is really such a great spot for something like this.'”
Taste of Edmonton got underway at 11 a.m. Wednesday. The 10-day festival draws in about 350,000 people, 19 per cent of which come from out of town. The festival results in about $10 million being injected into the local economy, according to Events Edmonton.