17 July 2013

More alcohol in public spaces?

In a July 17 article in 24 hours, local pundit Daniel Fontaine asks the question, is it time to legalize booze at the beach? He also includes the idea of legalizing the consumption of alcohol in our parks as well. The idea of more alcohol in our public spaces has been in the public eye for some time now. A few years ago some members of the hospitality industry started the 'No Fun Vancouver' campaign which was really about extending liquor hours for bars. They were quite successful and the no fun slogan is still trotted out when talking about our liquor laws.

In his article, Fontaine talks about the European experience and how their laws differ from ours. Interesting how some writers only choose what they like when making their point--he doesn't talk about their progressive taxation policies or moves away from GMOs. I would suggest that European values are not the same as ours and so one can't hand pick laws to compare.

In a reply to Fontaine's tweet :"Should we be making criminals out of people sipping a glass of wine on the beach", Park Board Chair Sarah Blyth tweeted "I dont think its good to promote alcohol use as ive seen a lot of lives ruined by it." This is interesting as I can't recall a single application to sell or  expand liquor sales at special functions in parks and at beaches in the past 5 years that has been turned down by the Park Board, or that Commissioner Blyth has ever spoken out against them. When I was a commissioner I questioned the need for this on each occasion and voted against them on several. Not because I am against alcohol, but like local journalist Frances Bula, who tweeted "do we have to turn EVERY place in the city into an open-air bar?", I don't think our public spaces should always be open to alcohol.

 When did alcohol consumption become the only way to have fun? There are plenty of places to drink in Vancouver without taking over our public spaces. I actually agree with Commissioner Blyth, and think that the Park Board should not be promoting alcohol consumption, which is why I voted against sales and consumption of alcohol on our public golf courses. I hope that she will use this argument the next time a liquor permit application comes before the Park Board and that she can use her position to convince her Vision Vancouver colleagues that it isn't necessary to consume liquor in public spaces in order to have fun.