Vancouver park board readies to vote on public drinking in parks

Debate on the issue has lingered through the summer, after it first came to the board on June 8

david lam park
David Lam Park, near Yaletown, is one of the 22 parks where Vancouverites may soon be able to drink alcohol | Vancouver park board

Vancouver park commissioners are readying to resume debate and vote on Monday (July 27) about whether and exactly where Vancouverites will be able to legally drink alcohol in city parks. 

The board was set to vote on the matter on July 6, when the proposal was to allow a three-month trial for drinking in parts of 10 parks. Instead, they told staff to study the issue and draft a proposal to allow drinking in at least one park in each of the city's 23 neighbourhoods. 

Staff has come close to that, by drafting a recommendation to allow public drinking in 22 parks until October 12, during the hours 11 a.m., until 9 p.m. 

The issue of allowing drinking in designated areas of parks rose to prominence early in the COVID-19 pandemic, after the B.C. government ordered bars and restaurant dining rooms to close. Some argued that many residents did not have yards or outdoor spaces, and that they would want to have picnics to enjoy eating outside the home. It was unfair, the argument went, that these people not be able to have an alcoholic drink with their meals.

The provincial government has since allowed restaurant dining rooms to reopen, and Vancouver city council directed staff to create an expedited approval program for temporary patios – a program that has since yielded approvals for 290 temporary patios

Nonetheless, the drive to have the park board officially allow drinking alcohol in public parks has not faded, and many residents openly flout prohibitions against drinking alcohol on beaches and in parks.

Park board staff say in their report that the pilot project would not start until mid-August and that it would be contingent on the B.C. government changing the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Act – something Victoria has said it would do. 

Park board staff's recommendation also assures commissioners that "park board has exclusive jurisdiction and control over all areas designated as permanent and temporary parks in the City of Vancouver, including any structures, programs and activities, fees, and improvements that occur within those parks. The board may pass, amend, and repeal by-laws for the control, regulation, protection, and government of these parks and of persons who may be therein."

All of the parks that staff are recommending be included in the trial have at least seasonal washrooms. 

city parks

(This map shows the city parks where residents may be able to soon drink alcohol, and it is from the staff report)

The parks that could be in the trial are:
• Collingwood (grass area at east corner);
• David Lam (grass area south of seawall);
• Fraser River (grass area surrounded by walking path; south section);
• Granville (grass area west of playground in west section of park);
• Harbour Green (northwest corner; north pathway);
• John Hendry (three different grass areas along east, west and south sides of Trout Lake);
• Kitsilano Beach (east area; from parking lot to Hadden Park);
• Langara (grass area north of walking path);
• Locarno Beach (northeast treed and grass area, but not beach);
• Maple Grove (northeast and southwest corners);
• Memorial South (northwest corner, excluding water feature);
• Memorial West (northeast portion, except community centre and parking lot);
• New Brighton (three areas — west side, excluding hillside and dog park; north and south side of pool outside fence);
• Pandora (west section excluding garden, dog park, sport courts; east section excluding splash pad);
• Queen Elizabeth (central/southwest area, includes rose garden);
• Quilchena (section south of the path);
• Riverfront (central section bound by path);
• Robson (T-shape area between south path, family centre and field; north of playground);
• Rupert (southwest corner of northern section);
• Stanley (two sites in southwest corner between tennis courts and lawn bowling club; area adjacent to Ceperley parking lot, including Second Beach picnic site);
• Vanier (northwest corner; south of perimeter path); and
• Volunteer (section west of path).