No more brown bag? Vancouver mulls prospect of public drinking

Photo credit: traveljunction | Flickr

Photo credit: traveljunction | Flickr

Could public drinking be allowed in Vancouver?

The provincial government is discretely floating the idea of allowing public consumption of alcohol in specific locations, according to a report in the Vancouver Sun. Earlier this month, municipalities across the province were asked for feedback on a little-known provision of B.C.’s liquor laws allowing the designation of special public spaces where liquor can be consumed.

On the books since the 1970s, the provision has apparently never been used. But momentum is gathering. Any change would bring to an end a long-standing policy of strictly prohibiting public consumption of alcohol. Though it’s not uncommon to see “brown-baggers” at Vancouver’s parks and beaches during the summer months, anyone who consumes alcohol in public is technically breaking the law and could be ticketed.  

Photo credit: Duncan Rawlinson - - @thelastminute | Flickr

Photo credit: Duncan Rawlinson – – @thelastminute | Flickr

The province has outlined two possible scenarios for public drinking. The first calls for the designation of certain public parks as zones where alcohol consumption would be permitted. These kind of open-container parks are commonplace across Europe and also in certain North American municipalities, including San Francisco and in Quebec.

The second scenario would see an entire street sanctioned as a drinking zone, similar to Bourbon Street in New Orleans or popular party strips in European capitals. In Vancouver, the most likely candidate would be Granville Street, with its high density of bars and clubs. The street is already cordoned off to vehicle traffic on many weekends and has a festival-like atmosphere on busy nights.

Photo credit:  no name given | Wikipedia

Photo credit: no name given | Wikipedia

For now, the prospect of public booze in the city remains purely in the consideration phase. There’s no word whether Vancouver has offered any feedback on the province’s proposals. Advocates note that the policy would bring the city in-line with many European cities, potentially boost tourism and also free Vancouverites from having to furtively sneak a sip of wine on summer picnics. Opponents point out that excessive drinking could lead to rowdiness in parks and that public drinking is already a known nuisance in spots across the city.

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