A city beach may seem like the ideal place to enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine on a summer day, but at present, drinking in public spaces is not allowed.
This could soon change as Penticton is considering licensing certain public spaces to allow alcohol during set hours.
Restrictions would still exist, but they would be looser than at present.
The proposed change is partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants are now beginning to reopen, but because of the physical distancing directives, they will not be able to accommodate as many people as in the past.
Allowing alcohol consumption in some public spaces would mean people could stop at a restaurant, pick up a take-out meal and beverage to enjoy in a park or at a beach.
Over the past few decades the Okanagan and Similkameen area has developed a reputation for fine wine. There are 39 wineries in the Naramata Bench, more than 20 in Summerland, at least 11 in the Similkameen, five on the Skaha Bench, 12 in Okanagan Falls, 39 in Oliver and nine in Osoyoos.
Penticton also has more craft breweries per capita than any other city in Canada.
If wine and beer are already a part of the culture of the region, then why not allow these beverages in some public spaces?
Many would welcome a more relaxed approach to alcohol consumption in public spaces.
However, it is still a bit too early to raise a glass to toast the regulation changes.
Before allowing alcohol consumption in public spaces, it is important to consider the potential effects.
The intent of allowing alcohol in public spaces is for those enjoying a beverage, not for those drinking to excess. Public intoxication is not a problem anyone would wish to see, in any community.
And the proposed change would allow alcohol consumption in designated spaces only, not in every park in the city.
The effects of the proposed changes cannot be known until the changes are approved and tested on a trial basis first. What happens during this trial period will determine if the proposed changes will become permanent.
If the change in restrictions works well in Penticton, it is likely that other communities in this region and beyond will adopt similar changes.
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