New West residents are officially allowed to consume alcohol in seven local parks – and they may soon be able to take a seat to enjoy their drinks comfortably.
On May 17, council adopted the consumption of liquor in public spaces bylaw, which allows people to drink alcohol in designated zones in Grimston Park, Hume Park, Moody Park, Port Royal Park, Queen’s Park, Sapperton Park and Westminster Pier Park.
“The designated zones within each park have been selected to balance the needs of providing safe and open spaces for people to gather while also considering the other uses and activities taking place in these parks,” said Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation. “Staff will be monitoring and receiving feedback on the program, and will make recommendations for any potential adjustments that need to be made.”
The bylaw, which is now in effect, permits adults to “drink responsibly” between 11 a.m. and dusk, seven days a week, said a City of New Westminster press release.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw many of our neighbouring municipalities successfully support alcohol consumption in their local parks,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote. “The adoption of this new bylaw is intended to encourage our residents to enjoy our outdoor spaces and socialize safely. It also creates an opportunity to support our local establishments by ordering both food and beverages.”
At Monday’s council meeting, Cote noted some cities are also providing seating in parks where alcohol is allowed to be consumed.
“I recently heard that some of the other communities that have gone down this road have put in – not permanent picnic tables, but just wooden picnic tables that are probably movable – into some of these spaces,” he said. “I know it’s not related to adoption of the bylaw, but I wanted to raise the issue because I know some of the other communities have done that to make it more comfortable to have places to be able to sit, to maybe have a takeout meal from one of our local restaurants. I know even the River Market is putting out picnic tables and different things like that.”
Gibson said staff has been discussing the idea of putting seating into some of these areas, particularly in the designated zones that are traditionally just large expanses of lawn.
“We will take that as some additional direction to expedite some of our efforts in key areas around the city,” he said in response to the mayor’s comments.
According to the press release, alcohol can only be consumed by adults age 19 or older within the designated areas of each of the approved parks. Signage has been installed at each park indicating the boundaries of each zone and the hours during which alcohol can be consumed.
“Adults who choose to drink in the permitted areas are expected to manage their consumption, act responsibly and dispose of their litter,” said the press release. “All public health orders related to COVID-19, as well as the provisions of the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Act, must also be followed.”
In the fall, city staff will seek community input about the pilot program and report back to council.