Glass of wine or beer with dinner on the beach? It's an idea making its way around B.C. - InfoNews

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Glass of wine or beer with dinner on the beach? It's an idea making its way around B.C.

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May 22, 2020 - 7:00 AM

A beautiful summer day, sitting at the beach for a lunch or dinner with some food from your favourite local restaurant paired with your favourite wine or beer — and it's all legal to do.

That scene could be a reality in the not-too-distant-future cities and towns ponder legislation that would allow public consumption of liquor on city-owned property.

The move is seen as a way to stimulate the city’s food and drink industry currently hampered by COVID-19 restrictions.

Penticton city councillors were the latest to consider this possibility and agreed earlier this week to support it by sending letters to the provincial minister responsible for alcohol, following the lead of North Vancouver and Nanaimo, requesting more flexible liquor licensing in the province to allow it.

Under present legislation, temporary changes aren’t allowed to individual liquor licenses, hampering a restaurant, bar, brewery or distillery from making adjustments to such things as outdoor patio space.

Penticton Councillor Campbell Watt took up the charge, urging the city to allow alcohol — but not public intoxication — at Gyro Park or one of the city’s beaches.

“I’d like to see us further evaluate the types of opportunities this may open for us. We have a lack of capacity in our restaurants, we need to leverage what we have to keep these jobs and businesses in Penticton,” he said.

Watt said he envisioned a pilot project of limited duration to see if it would work, saying the city also needed to encourage residents to get out of the house.

“If it encourages residents to get a take-out order at a local restaurant, grabbing some local beer or wine from one of our breweries, it might be a way to support them,” he told council.

Watt said in an interview he’d had the idea in mind for some time, noting other parts of the world have similar legislation.

“Here we have 30 wineries, six breweries, soon to be seven, and two distilleries within the city limits. It kind of makes sense,” he says.

Watt said since Tuesday’s council meeting he’s had a lot of feedback, “without any really negative comments.”

The Penticton Wine Country Chamber of Commerce also weighed in on Coun. Watt’s proposal, issuing a press release in support of legalized alcohol consumption in public spaces.

“We love the idea that people can support their favourite restaurant with a takeout order, pick up the favourite craft beer and enjoy it outside,” Wine Country Chamber President Nicole Clark said, calling it a great way to help keep the businesses open.

The idea is in its initial stages of development, but similar thoughts are also being echoed by the province’s restaurant industry’s representative body, the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservice Association.

Association Chief Executive Officer Ian Tostenson says on the coast, an idea is making the rounds of having a restaurant lottery to provide public space for people to come, where restaurants could serve them food and drink.

"It's a cool idea. Maybe the same sort of thing could be done in Penticton in the park. We are totally in favour of expansion of patios for restaurants, but we're not really keen on just going to the park and drinking. if it can be combined with a restaurant food, then we are totally on side of that," Tostenson says.

Creativity could play a role in defining where liquor is consumed in public spaces, he says.

“If you’ve got a licensed local picnic area, which would be if you have your food and your bottle of wine from your local restaurant, then you’re more than happy to go eat it in the park where you can socially distance yourself, that would be kind of cool, because it benefits the economy and it benefits the small business owner a lot better," he says. "Tying into local wines, local beers and local restaurants would serve much more purpose opposed to, say, allowing a case of beer.Trying to get it to a higher level of purpose is a much preferable direction to go."

Penticton RCMP spokesperson James Grandy said the RCMP had no comment to make regarding the proposal at this point, but said police would enforce any changes made to the province's liquor laws. 

Penticton Chief Administrative Officer Donny van Dyk said it was within the city’s legislative ability to set rules for alcohol consumption on city owned property.

Council agreed unanimously to request staff look into the matter in time for the next council meeting on June 2.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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