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Calgary may allow alcohol in parks this summer – but only with a meal

The City of Calgary is seriously considering allowing alcohol consumption in parks this summer, but for now you’ll have to put aside your fantasy of taking a flat of beer down by the river.

Laura Smith, business planner with Calgary Parks, said citizens’ desire to allow alcohol consumption in parks came out during consultations on cannabis legalization. LiveWire first reported the story in August.

“We received a fairly significant number of comments – unsolicited – from people who said they would like to enjoy alcohol in our parks,” said Smith.

An engage portal is now open so that citizens can give their input on how and where they might like to see alcohol consumed.

“We’re just starting this investigation,” said Smith. “We’re not even sure if Calgarians want us to go down this road.”

However, if citizens do give the green light, Parks is already planning around the limitations already put in place by the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Act.

The act reads that a person “may consume liquor with food in a public park in a picnic area designated by the owner or operator of the public park during the hours designated by the owner or operator[.]”

The act also specifies that a sign must be posted spelling out the rules, including the hours when alcohol consumption is allowed.

Working with that limitation, Smith said the city envisions allowing alcohol consumption at certain designated picnic tables, since it needs to be consumed with food.

“Whether that’s going to be every single picnic table in Calgary or one or two parks, or maybe one or two parks, or a portion of picnic tables in a park, or maybe not at all – that’s going to be influenced by what Calgarians tell us,” said Smith.

If enough Calgarians do express an interest in the pilot, she expects it to launch this summer – likely in July and August.

“We want to make sure we’re over a honeymoon period where Calgarians are exceptionally consuming, or perhaps being exceptionally well-behaved,” said Smith.

She said that while the act merely says food, Parks will be expecting citizens to consume alcohol with a meal, not just a bag of pretzels.

Rules around public intoxication will still be strictly enforced, meaning Calgarians will be able to indulge, but not over-indulge.

She also said demand could outstrip supply during a pilot. Some picnic areas have a booking system, but it may need to be first-come, first served for other areas, depending on the pilot.

And while the desire for alcohol came up during cannabis consultations, Smith said the city is not revisiting cannabis in parks.

“We heard very clearly from Calgarians that they don’t want cannabis in parks and we’re not reopening that – So this is strictly about liquor in parks,” she said.