A midtown city councillor wants the city to introduce a pilot project to permit the consumption of alcoholic beverages in public parks and at beaches this summer.
Ward 12 Coun. Josh Matlow has written a letter to the infrastructure and environment committee asking that they consider implementing a pilot project that would allow members of the public to consume some alcoholic beverages in parks and at beaches with bathroom facilities between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.
The proposed pilot project would run from May 21 until October 31 and would be largely geared towards beer, wine and cider with the city continuing to prohibit the public consumption of any beverages with an alcohol percentage exceeding 15 per cent.
“As we approach the second summer of the pandemic, public health officials recognize the reality that, especially after a year in isolation, people need to socialize,” Matlow said in the latter. “It is up to us as policy makers to create environments where those connections with friends and family can be made in the safest way possible way.”
Last summer Vancouver introduced a pilot project of its own to allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages in nine city parks and that initiative is expected to be expanded this summer.
A number of other cities, including Montreal, have also long allowed residents to consume alcohol beverages in parks al fresco.
But in Toronto the practice remains strictly forbidden and anyone found in a public park with an open liquor container can be issued a $300 fine.
In an interview with Newstalk 1010 on Monday morning, Matlow called the ongoing prohibition “tone deaf” given what we know about the enhanced risk of COVID-19 transmission indoors.
He said that that while many Torontonians “have the privilege to be able to have a drink in their backyard or on their balcony,” not everyone is so lucky and shouldn’t be left with the option of congregating indoors “or doing something illegal.”
“If you remember a year ago the city was taking really dramatic measures to address the impending pandemic. We were keeping people off all the playground equipment and telling people not to sit on benches. But in the last year we have learned a lot and we understand now much more about the transmission of the virus than we did then and now the city is actively encouraging people to be outdoors. In fact, we know that being outdoors is far safer than being indoors,” he said. “In other words if one is going to have a drink and if you are choosing to do that with others it is far safer to do it outdoors with the ventilation that you have than congregating inside somewhere.”
The infrastructure and environment committee will consider Matlow’s motion at a meeting scheduled for April 28.