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Vancouver pilot could allow drinking at four outdoor plazas

Last Updated Jul 29, 2020 at 10:17 am PST

A pilot project has been approved allowing alcohol consumption at four outdoor plazas in Vancouver. (NEWS 1130 photo)
Summary

A staff report recommends allowing alcohol consumption at four outdoor spaces in Vancouver

The downtown locations include the north plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery

If approved at a special meeting, the pilot project would run from Aug. 10 to Oct. 12

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — You may soon be able to crack a cold one at four outdoor plazas in Vancouver.

A staff report to council on Wednesday recommends adding four plazas where people can bring their own alcohol and drink outside.

All of the locations are downtown, including Cordova Street at W. Hastings Street, on Bute Street at Robson Street, and on 17th Avenue at Cambie Street. The other area is the north plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

“All proposed sites have a strong community partner, proximity to food primary businesses and access to transit,” says a report to council.

The four new locations are part of a pilot project to support establishments during the COVID-19 pandemic, since fewer people are able to drink indoors.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has detrimentally impacted Vancouver’s businesses and communities,” says staff. “Emergency health and safety restrictions have slowed the spread of the virus, yet have also had negative effects on local businesses and placed barriers on social connectivity.”

If approved at a special meeting, the pilot project would run from Aug. 10 to Oct. 12.

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Vancouver Coastal Health and Vancouver Police Department were consulted and determined a monitoring plan is required for the duration of the pilot to ensure public health and safety.

“In particular, VCH voiced concern over the long-term impacts of enabling and normalizing public drinking in a “binge drinking culture”, and the immediate impacts alcohol-related incidents may have on emergency and hospital services. VCH is concerned that a potential spike in alcohol-related emergencies may inundate frontline health services during a time when these services need to be available to respond to the pandemic,” says staff.

Cordova and Hastings streets is one of the proposed locations.

“VPD has identified risks related to the management of public spaces and safety. Increased liquor service and availability in specific areas often requires increased management provisions
to ensure order and safety – and in the absence of management, increased policing presence.”

Council directed staff to prepare a bylaw for the pilot project in June.

“Access to outdoor spaces contributes to community and economic health of the city. Allowing alcohol consumption in public spaces, when managed safely, responsibly, and respectfully for all public space users, may facilitate healthy social bonding after a long period of disruption,” says staff.

“Additionally, spaces for consumption may also support businesses and patrons in a time of reduced capacity.”

In a separate decision earlier this week, the Vancouver Park Board voted in favour of a pilot project allowing alcohol in 22 locations around the city. However, the province will need to make changes to legislation, meaning the pilot project might not start until next year.

Last month, the City of North Vancouver voted to allow drinking alcohol in public places. Port Coquitlam followed, allowing drinking alcohol in seven parks.