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Vancouver mayor sparks social media debate after chugging beer on stage

Tough-on-crime mayor elects to chug a beer on a music stage at the Khatsahlano Street Party.
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, left, shotgunned a beer with councillor Mike Klassen at the Khatsahlano Street Party July 8, 2023.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim shotgunned a beer at the Khatsahlano Street Party main stage Saturday and in doing so stirred debate on social media about both Vancouver’s reputation as a so-called “no fun city” but also the ongoing matter of policing the open use of drugs on streets and in parks — something the mayor focused on addressing in his fall 2022 electoral campaign.

Khatsahlano took place on West 4th Avenue, between McDonald and Burrard streets and featured four designated beer gardens.

Sim was on stage with his council colleague Mike Klassen, who also shotgunned a beer. The video, posted on Reddit, was circulated widely on many media platforms.

On Sunday, Sim retweeted an article on the event, and his beer chug, stating on his Twitter account, “We’re serious about bringing fun back to Vancouver.”

With 821 likes, as of Monday, it appears to be his most popular tweet, as it out-liked his pinned tweet thanking Vancouver residents for being elected on Oct. 19, 2022.

Vancouver lawyer and legal and political commentator Kyla Lee suggested Sim’s beer chugging cannot be viewed separately from the city’s ongoing enforcement of other drug use in public.

“This open drug use is allowed and celebrated. Even though alcohol is undeniably linked to property crime, assault, death, injury, and illness. I’m fine with this conduct. I’m not fine with the artificial lines we’ve drawn between this and other drugs,” wrote Lee.

As Lee noted on Twitter, according to Correctional Service Canada, using self-reported data, “over 40 per cent of offences are a result of [substance use], with alcohol responsible for the greatest proportion of crimes.”

Sim is in the process of hiring 100 more police officers — a key election promise for his slate.

One of his political opponents, Sean Orr, chided the mayor, as well.

"Ken Sims at Khatsahlano Street Party: Pass me another brewski Counsillor Klassen! And while you're at it, send another 100 cops to the Downtown Eastside to take down some homeless dope fiends!" stated Orr on Twitter.

Meanwhile, others took the beer chug lightly.

“Pretty good form from the mayor. Not a lot of drips coming from the can either. The man is clearly a former accountant,” wrote one anonymous account on Reddit, garnering 600 upvotes.

On April 11, the Sim-led crime-focused city council voted to expand the Drinking in Public Plazas Program to allow locals to consume alcohol at six select plazas over the next year.

Sim is also a big proponent of bringing the 2026 World Cup to Vancouver.