With the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling public events across the Tri-Cities — shutting down everything from Coquitlam’s in-person Canada celebrations to Port Moody’s Rib Fest — some public officials are weighing whether it’s time to let families have a glass of wine or beer in the park.
In Vancouver, one city councillor recently announced plans to present a motion that, if passed into law, would allow drinking in public spaces like the beach or city parks in time for the summer. And while that’s stirred up a debate over just who can approve such a change, here in the Tri-Cities, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said he’s open to the idea.
“The reality is it does happen now, and 99% of the time it happens without issue,” said West, adding that the first step towards making such a change would have to come from the province.
“We’ll always try to be a leader to adapt in the way things are going.”
In recent years, the city has taken steps to reduce red tape around the opening up and expansion of craft breweries, allowing alcohol sampling at the local farmer’s market and expanding the sale of alcohol at some restaurants into the morning hours. West said the city has also had significant success expanding beer gardens at major public events like the PoCo Grand Prix, at city-approved parties in the park and the annual car show.
But with those events either curtailed or cancelled altogether, finding a place to bring people together under the threat of a pandemic is tricky, and according to West, warrants a deeper look at current liquor laws.
“If we can’t have people come together as a community at a beer garden or around live music, maybe it’s time to allow people to… have a beer at a picnic,” said West.
“My guiding philosophy is you have to treat people like adults. I think sometimes there’s an inclination to focus on the worst doomsday scenario and all the horrible things that would come about if you were to let someone have a beer or glass of wine in the park... If we let worse case scenarios dictate how we do things, we’d never get anything done.”