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Bylaw to allow drinking in Vancouver's public spaces could come before summer's end, councillor says

Last Updated Jun 24, 2020 at 9:24 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

Vancouver council has asked staff to look at possible locations to allow people to drink in public

Possible ideas include public plazas

Other communities are already moving forward with their own plans to let people drink in public

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver city council has flip-flopped on potential plans to allow you to drink in public.

After voting down the idea earlier this month, councillors have agreed to ask staff for a bylaw, including where it might be possible.

“This will probably come back in early July, there’s hoping, so we can have a space as soon as we possibly can,” Coun. Michael Wiebe tells NEWS 1130.

He says council can’t do anything about areas controlled by the Park Board, but it can OK the consumption of alcohol in public plazas like the south side of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Wiebe says the move could help pave the way to allow the Park Board to designate a park or beach to fall under the same bylaw.

He adds council has heard from a number of locals and business owners since a motion expanding alcohol consumption to more public outdoor spaces was voted down in early June.

“[They] talked about the equity lens of it, recognizing that there’s, for some people right now, they totally feel comfortable going and having a glass of wine at the park,” Wiebe explains, adding that while some people feel comfortable drinking alcohol in public — even if it’s illegal to do so — there are a number of others who don’t.

“That’s not the same thing for all the ethnic groups out there. So that was kind of a conversation, not everyone has that privilege and feels comfortable doing that, and so that I think was really the big driver,” he says.

It was this point that made some councillors change their minds when they went to vote on Tuesday, Wiebe says.

“That’s where a couple of the councillors felt that the equity side and the equity lens of it is something they hadn’t really realized, that everyone should feel comfortable. Just because it’s a norm and a lot of people do it, that doesn’t actually allow for it to be something that is for everyone and that’s where we want our city to go. We need to create spaces for everyone.”

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Coun. Pete Fry echoes some of Wiebe’s comments, and also hopes to see the bylaw come into this summer.

Fry says he, too, heard from Vancouverites who believe the outcome at the beginning of June was unfortunate for businesses, BIAs, and others.

However, he also heard about the “equity issue.”

“The equity issue was one that I think several councillors hadn’t really anticipated, and perhaps it wasn’t well articulated in the original motion,” he says.

Fry also notes there’s a difference between having a drink or two in public and disorderly conduct.

He admits that while it’s not unreasonable to think someone can enjoy an alcoholic beverage in public without losing control, it does happen.

“Those are separate behaviours, and I think it’s important to recognize that we’re not condoning big, wild beer garden free-for-alls, we’re talking about a responsible approach to this,” Fry says.

The City of North Vancouver passed a bylaw earlier this month allowing people to consume alcohol in nine municipally-owned parks and greenspaces, including Waterfront Park, Cates Deck at The Shipyards, and Civic Plaza.

Mayor Linda Buchanan has said the move is all about creating a vibrant community.

The rules in the City of North Vancouver aren’t permanent or in effect 24 hours a day. They are in place from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. until Oct. 15.

Related video: Vancouver turns down motion to allow drinking in public