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The Calgary City Council wants to revive the open consumption pilot in parks

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Alanna Smith

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April 10, 2021 • • 5 hours earlier • • 3 minutes read • • 9 comments Two people walk through Pearce Estate Park in Calgary on Saturday, April 10, 2021. A Calgary city council is looking to revive plans for a pilot project that will allow people to book picnic tables and enjoy a glass of beer or wine. Photo by Dre Kwong /.Postmedia

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A Calgary city council wants to revive a pilot that will allow locals to consume alcohol in designated public parks as COVID-19 is restricting the ways people can safely socialize.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra plans to propose to the council next month that would allow Calgarians to reserve picnic tables in the warmer months where they could enjoy an ice cold beer or glass of wine without the risk of a fine .

“For some time now there has been a constant conversation among Calgarians about how we can get a bit more European and civilized about our approach to alcohol consumption in our parking lots,” said Carra, whose east-central District 9 extends from downtown to the eastern border from Calgary.

“That was kind of uncomfortable about the current regulatory environment that we inherited from the past.”

A similar pilot was postponed in 2019 due to concerns about a possible increase in behavioral disorders. The decision came shortly after a poll found that public opinion was divided to allow alcohol consumption in urban parks.

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Carra said the new pilot would work much like the fire pit booking system in the winter, with around 100 picnic tables to reserve.

But there are problems that need to be addressed, he added.

“What if you show up for a booking and a family has a picnic there? Then there’s a conversation about, “Wouldn’t it be nicer just to roll out a blanket?” Said Carra.

“There are all kinds of logistical nightmares, but that’s the thing about pilots. You get a sense of the general core, you learn from what works and what doesn’t.”

The city council said it was in favor of the “European ideal of being able to have a beer and sit by the river,” but said the city was not there yet. Carra said they need to consider social disorder, population health and enforcement issues.

“There are people in healthcare who say, ‘Let’s not encourage this kind of behavior,’ and then there are people who say, ‘If we don’t make it a big deal and screw it up, it will not a problem, ”he said.

“This is about finding difficult balances and moving forward thoughtfully. I hope the Council will agree that we should pilot this during the COVID-19 era. “

A man enjoys coffee at a picnic table in Stanley Park, Calgary on Saturday, April 10, 2021. A man enjoys coffee at a picnic table in Stanley Park, Calgary on Saturday, April 10, 2021. Photo by Dre Kwong /.jpg

Calgary community farmer Ali McMillan said she was glad city guides are considering relaxing the rules on public drinking, but it made more sense to simply get rid of Calgary’s zero-tolerance policy.

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“There should be no restriction,” said McMillan. “If I want to have a picnic and pick up a pizza from a local company, bring a bottle of wine, and sit in the park with my family – I think that’s perfectly reasonable, and I think some people are doing it. “

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of outdoor public spaces to connect, she added. Allowing public drinking would encourage people to support local people because they could get something to eat and drink and sit outside “where they feel safer”.

She said Carra’s proposed pilot is a “step in the right direction” but could cause more harm than good if public drinking is localized in certain areas.

McMillan said it was also unclear how many people would even bother reserving a table, considering people are doing it anyway.

“We’re all ready to be adults in public, treat people like that, and responsibly enjoy a cold on a sunny day,” she said. “I see this as a kind of common sense.”

alsmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: @alanna_smithh

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