Would you like to crack a beer or sip on a glass of wine at a Penticton beach this summer?
The City of Penticton is looking at legalizing the consumption of alcohol in some public spaces to support local liquor producers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal, put forward by city councillor Campbell Watt at Tuesday’s virtual council meeting, asked staff to explore a potential pilot project to allow booze on the beach in specific public areas and during specific times.
“It is really important, in my opinion, to leverage what we have to keep these businesses afloat and keep these jobs in Penticton,” Watt said.
“If we could encourage going to get a takeout order, grabbing some local beer or wine from The Cannery, Slackwater etc., I think that this would be a way to help support them.”
Ironically, council heard the bylaw was used to restrict the consumption of liquor by former mayor Jake Kimberley, who is now a city councillor, after the 1991 Peachfest riot.
Council ultimately voted to send the matter to city staff, who will report back with recommendations at a future meeting.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, mayor and council also endorsed recommendations put forward by the city’s economic recovery task force, which includes waiving fees for sidewalk and storefront use permits and relaxing outdoor design standards to support restaurants, pubs and retailers as they reopen under strict COVID-19 protocols.
“Allowing more space, potentially, would give that possibility to ensure that the COVID-19 requirements for public health are met, but, at the same time, allow businesses to reopen and serve customers again,” said Andrew Kemp, the city’s economic development specialist.
Brexit pub owner Martyn Lewis welcomed the economic recovery initiatives, but said they don’t go far enough.
“I would love to see Penticton close down Main Street,” he said. “We could really build on the community by drawing the community downtown.”
He also said the city is slow to roll out its plans as the province enters phase two if its reopening strategy.
“It’s two months into a pandemic. This should have been really thought about two months ago rather than mid-May, especially with the tourism situation, which looks like its going to be dire,” Lewis said.
“And there is a recession that is going to hit, and we are kind of procrastinating.”
Kemp responded that industry-specific health and safety guidelines were only recently released by WorkSafeBC.
“It is unfortunate that we have lost a portion of the season, but we are really hoping that we can respond quickly here and get back with some options to put in front of council and hopefully get them implemented as soon as possible,” he said.
Penticton city council also voted to send a letter to the provincial government in support of more flexible liquor licensing rules for businesses looking to expand their outdoor seating areas.