Loosening up on liquor laws
By Morgan Hannah, Life & Style Editor
In Canada, outside of Quebec, it is illegal to drink alcohol in an unlicensed public place—such as the beach. Each year, hundreds of people are ticketed for public drinking. Millions of others abstain from doing so because they believe that drinking in public is apparently illegal as shoplifting—even though drinking in public was perfectly legal just about everywhere in the world as recently as 1975.
There are some who agree with this prohibition, claiming that drinking only where it is licensed to do so keeps the streets clean and orderly, and while that may be true to some degree, these laws impose excessive restrictions on ordinary people and responsible citizens that wish to simply enjoy a cold cider in the park, or a glass of wine at the beach.
In the rest of the world, public drinking bans generally don’t exist. From the UK all the way to Indonesia, patrons can purchase a beer and take a walk with it without causing a scene or attracting a ticket—or worse, jail time. Some groups don’t agree with this practice as they believe that if people are able to buy a bottle of wine and take it to the park, they may be less inclined to purchase wine in a restaurant. However, what if the ability to sit down in a restaurant or a pub is taken away for a long time due to this pandemic? Does that mean the only safe and legal place to consume alcohol becomes our own homes for an extended period? Does that mean that the public will break the law and resort to sneaky tactics such as vodka in their water bottles to enjoy a drink in the outdoors? Or does that mean it might just be time to change the liquor laws in Canada to match the majority of the world?
The government should begin treating people like adults and give them the choice about when and where to drink. And if the idea of trying to organize millions of drinkers rather than just thousands of pubs and bars, is daunting, then perhaps opening up local outdoor places specifically for drinking publicly is an idea worthy of consideration. A perfect place for that here in BC is Granville Street. Before the pandemic hit, Granville Street becomes a thrumming hub of nightlife—so much so that traffic cannot drive down certain areas. Wouldn’t it be cool to string up some Edison bulbs, play some music, and maybe put up some socially distanced patio sets and open up both Granville Street and its pubs and bars for takeout drinks? That way, local businesses serving sit-down drinks are able to reopen and a public space can be turned into a charming and safe place for everyone to enjoy a relaxing evening drink and maybe even some dancing. The nightclub scene could safely be reinvented and opened up to the outdoors—where it is less likely to contribute to the spread of the virus.
Public drinking doesn’t have to take over every street corner and neighbourhood park, but by loosening the laws on liquor—especially during a tough time like this—the government can boost public morale, save more local businesses, and create fun ways for people to enjoy themselves responsibly rather than resulting to reused Gatorade bottles with booze and a splash of food colouring. This year, during our toughest global challenge yet, let’s treat Canadians like adults and give them the ability to choose to drink responsibly outside.