Calgary city councillor looking to pilot loosened liquor laws in city parks

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Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra joins Global News Morning Calgary to discuss his motion to allow alcohol consumption in designated city parks. – May 10, 2021

A Calgary city councillor is putting together a proposal to test a pilot that would allow alcohol consumption in designated city parks.

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra told Global News on Saturday that he has been working with city administration on a pilot project and plans to bring it forward at the city’s next priorities and finance committee meeting at the end of April.

“It’s something that we’ve been hearing a lot about over the last couple of years in Calgary, and it’s been a pretty sustained opinion amongst a fairly large consensus of Calgarians,” Carra said.

“The idea is that this is a pilot measure. This is a COVID response, and if it’s successful, we can have a conversation about transitioning it to a more permanent situation.”

According to Carra, the pilot would allow Calgarians to book picnic tables at certain Calgary parks, similar to the bookable fire pits throughout the winter. It would be at those picnic tables that Calgarians could enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine this summer.

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If given the green light from city council, Carra said the pilot would most likely begin in June with about 100 picnic tables scattered throughout parks across the city — a number that could grow depending on demand from the public.

“I think any place there was a firepit is probably a good place where you’d have picnic tables and picnic sites that are already registered picnic sites, probably places like that,” Carra said.

“It’s just really directing administration to be inclusive, broad-based, thoughtful about it.”

The City of Calgary explored the idea of allowing liquor consumption at picnic sites in 2019 but ultimately decided to postpone the effort due to complex logistical and enforcement issues.

According to city administration, some of the challenges included concerns from enforcement agencies, divided public opinion and resource constraints.

Carra added that he’d rather the city take a “baby step” with the alcohol consumption pilot as there are Calgarians who will be opposed to the idea.

“What we do know about Calgary right now is that there is a rising social disorder driven by COVID and the state of the economy, and so people who are laser-focused on that would look at this as one more vector that could take us in the wrong direction,” Carra said.

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“The overwhelming majority of us don’t do things that are against the rules, and what we’re trying to see here is if we make something legal that right now is illegal, will more people do it in a responsible way or will it be a problem?”

Read more: Allowing Canadians to drink in public parks may help slow coronavirus spread: experts

As for the potential of seasonal beer gardens in the city, as proposed in the river surf wave park by the Alberta River Surfing Association and several partners, Carra said the pilot is a step to determine if Calgarians are interested in moving in that direction.

“When COVID is behind us and we can gather, having places by the Harvie Passage, by the proposed 10th Street surf wave, places where you could sit and get a beer… it would be great,” Carra said.

“This is a baby step in that direction, and I hope council is excited to see how Calgarians respond to it when given the opportunity.”

Earlier this year, Edmonton city council voted 11-1 to explore loosening liquor laws at select parks for the summer. The rules being explored in that city would limit the amount of alcohol each person could consume with food.

If Calgary’s priorities and finance committee gives Carra’s notice of motion a blessing, it will go to city council on May 10 for a final decision.

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– With files from Global News’ Nicole Stillger 

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