A pilot project in Penticton, B.C., that allows alcohol consumption at some public beaches and parks has supporters and detractors.
The project, which came into effect on Wednesday, June 3, and ended Saturday, July 4, will be back before city council this week.
On Tuesday, the city will review the project, though city staff will recommend that it be allowed to continue until Oct. 15.
“The pilot received enough support from the community to recommend continuing the implementation of this bylaw,” said the city’s director of development services, Blake Laven.
“If council agrees with the recommendation, the city will continue to consult with groups who may be affected and look at making any additional adjustments as part of a final review this fall.”
Also backing the project is a group of seven Penticton breweries.
In a letter dated May 27th, the group said “we see the move of allowing for the responsible consumption of alcohol in public places such as beaches and parks to be another positive chance, and we are fully in support of this.
“We love the idea of people enjoying a picnic with local craft beer at the park with their friends. Or picking up a meal and craft beer to go at a local restaurant and enjoying it at the beach.”
The letter continued, stating “having said this, we are in support of responsible alcohol consumption in public places. The established laws that prohibit drinking and driving, drinking underage and mass consumption of alcohol that results in people being drunk and disorderly will help ensure that alcohol consumption in public places is done in a responsible way.”
Another group, the Campaign for Real Ale South Okanagan, mirrored the seven breweries’ letter, saying it, too, is in support of people being able to responsibly enjoy alcohol in select public places.
However, not all agreed with the city’s pilot project.
In a letter dated June 23, interim chief medical health officer Sue Pollock made it clear that IHA is against the idea.
In bold-face type, IHA said “it is the position of the Interior Health medical health officers that permitting alcohol consumption in designated public spaces may increase the harms associated with alcohol and augment COVID-19 tranmission. Furthermore, such a policy sends a message that normalizes alcohol drinking and promotes a culture of alcohol consumption.”
The letter said while alcohol can provide health, social and economic benefits, “increasing opportunities for alcohol consumption are likely to have a wide range of negative impacts on individuals and society, such as intoxication, injury, premature rates of death, disability and chronic disease, intimate partner violence and impaired driving.”
It ended, saying “despite the known risks and harms associated with alcohol, it is a socially acceptable drug, meaning people are more likely to use it and pressure others to use despite its risk for harm.”
To view the agenda for Penticton city council on July 7 at 1 p.m., click here.