Penticton, B.C., to test out alcohol consumption at parks, beaches

Penticton, B.C., is moving forward with a scaled-back version of a proposed pilot project that would allow people to drink alcohol at certain public parks and beaches.

After a lengthy discussion at their Tuesday meeting, city council approved a one-month test run, starting Wednesday.

City staff had proposed council allow drinking at six local parks and beaches during the pilot project.

However, councillors removed SS Sicamous Park and Gyro Park from that list.

Instead, the relaxed rules will apply at parks and beaches along the Okanagan Lake waterfront from Power Street to Marina Way Park between noon and 8 p.m.

The pilot project is set to wrap up July 4.

Relaxing the liquor rules was originally floated by a city councillor as a way to support local businesses including wineries and breweries during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The idea has support from Travel Penticton, the local tourism marketing organization.

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Travel Penticton said given the “significant and potential long-term impact COVID-19 is having on tourism,” it is “looking at innovative ways to help support our local businesses, offer a new benefit to our visitors and still follow government and health safety guidelines.”

However, police and health officials have pointed out potential drawbacks.

In an email to the city, the head of the Penticton police detachment raised questions about who would monitor the parks and beaches involved to ensure safety.

It appears Supt. Brian Hunter does not want to see a policy change create more calls for the RCMP.

Hunter wrote to a city staff member that the RCMP detachment is already under-staffed and “unable to effectively respond to our current calls for service.”

The city’s director of development services said in response to this type of input, the city broadened the proposed number of days for allowing alcohol “to try to spread out any activity” and avoid creating a “critical mass.”

An earlier proposal would have only allowed drinking in beaches and parks two days a week during the pilot project.

Meanwhile, Interior Health expressed concerns the relaxed rules would expose young people to more drinking and further encourage drinking among adults during the pandemic when some Canadians are already reporting more alcohol consumption.

— with files from Shelby Thom

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