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Calgary considers allowing alcohol consumption in city parks

If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of wine in a Paris green space, or imbibed while picnicking in New York’s Central Park, you might be wondering why it’s not allowed here in Calgary.

The recent discussion about public cannabis consumption sites revealed that some Calgarians are keen to have a drink outside, and the city has been entertaining the notion.

When asked on Twitter if outdoor alcohol consumption might also be allowed in the near future, Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra suggested that the discussion was already happening.

“We are discussing seasonal European-style beer gardens and the like for public parks,” tweeted the Ward 9 councillor.

That discussion was confirmed by the city in an email to LiveWire. A spokesperson for the city said that Calgarians indicated in a recent Parks Bylaw Engagement survey that they want the ability to consume liquor in parks.

“However, because a question around liquor was not actually posed in the Engage survey, further research and engagement would be required,” read the email.

It goes on to say that the city is planning to examine the impacts of designating picnic sites where alcohol could be consumed. That will mean looking at the legal and logistical implications of drinking areas within parks, and consulting with Calgarians.

The province’s Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act does allow land owners – in this case the municipality –  to set the rules around drinking in parks. But there’s a catch in the way it’s worded: the alcohol must be consumed with food.

The law also states that there must be signs posted that explain the rules and the hours where drinking is permitted.

One might expect the restaurant industry to push back against such a move, but Mark von Schellwitz – vice president, western Canada for Restaurants Canada, said members of his industry association probably wouldn’t have a problem with limited drinking in parks.

He said having a picnic in a park is very different from the experience one gets at a restaurant with table service.

“It’s just part of the evolution of human behavior,” said von Schellwitz.

“I certainly think responsible adults should be able to consume a reasonable amount of beverages in a park.”

The city said work on this is unlikely to begin until 2019 at the earliest.