On Monday afternoon, Calgary city council voted 12-2 to approve a pilot project that will allow people to indulge in their favourite alcoholic beverages while hanging out at city-owned parks.
The City of Calgary explored loosening its liquor laws to allow for consumption at picnic sites in 2019, but ultimately, the effort was shelved due to issues regarding logistics and enforcement.
With the project now given the green light, it will be legal to consume alcohol at a yet-to-be-determined number of picnic table sites scattered around the city.
Pending COVID-19 restrictions, the project would run from June 1 to September 7 and would be based on the firepit program from this past winter — the difference now is that bookings would be made for picnic tables rather than firepits.
The city said the reason behind the bookings is that it will allow them to track how popular the project is.
Prior to Monday’s vote, Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who spearheaded the motion, said that while some socially conservative people or medical professionals will be skeptical of this, he believes those who fall somewhere in between will be in favour.
“I think everybody in the middle understands that it’s possible to responsibly enjoy a beverage with friends,” says Carra. “The opportunity to get outside during a pandemic really turns this into a mental health coping strategy.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi admitted that alcohol addiction is a serious concern but was curious about how a project like this would go and if it has any benefits.
“I’m interested in pilots, and I’m interested in trying things,” said Nenshi.
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Stanley Park in the southwest is a city-owned park featuring picnic tables that could be used in the project.
“I think it’s a great pilot project. I think we trust most people to consume responsibly and making it a trial is perfect,” said park-goer Jeff Deopker.
Others weren’t sure what this could mean for areas where there are lots of young children.
“I know a lot of kids in this neighbourhood take their scooter or their bike down to the park, and if there’s a whole bunch of people having a few drinks, and it goes to one too many, where is the line?” said Emma Tink.
Calgary is now the latest city in Alberta getting a feel for how alcohol consumption in city parks would go.
Last week, Edmonton city council approved its own pilot project that will allow alcohol consumption in designated parks beginning at the end of May and running until October.