Penticton residents who enjoyed a glass of wine or beer on the beach last summer can cheer for next year, with city council moving forward with a second trial year of allowing alcohol on public beaches.
With COVID-19 hitting 2020, and signs of a vaccine on the horizon, council wants to see the impact of allowing beer on the beaches in a more normal year.
Council unanimously approved city staff to start planning a second pilot year at the Nov. 17 meeting, with Mayor John Vassilaki abstaining from the decision.
The one-month pilot program allowed the consumption of liquor in select parks and beaches along Okanagan Lake through parts of May and June last year. In June, city council passed a bylaw extending the pilot through the rest of the summer and later expanded the initiative to include parts of the Skaha Lake waterfront. The program in both locations wrapped up on Oct. 15.
The city staff’s report to council said RCMP concluded that “overall, it does not appear that allowing liquor consumption within the specified areas added any significant strain to police resources.”
One of the concerns shared by members of council was the reported increase in littering, particularly of glass bottles reported by the city’s parks department.
“I am concerned about glass on the beach, and I would like us to explore in between now and then going with cans only,” said coun. Katie Robinson. “Even with bottles of wine, the ski industry for years has been using wineskins, there’s no reason why we couldn’t do that, and it would actually generate some economy selling wineskins. “
Another concern was with the littering was the increased amounts of refuse left behind.
“The common complaint I heard was the garbage containers were overflowing,” said acting mayor Judi Sentes. “Either we’re picking up at the wrong time, or we’re not picking up enough. “
City staff will be taking those complaints into account with their planning. Members of council and city staff expressed their support for project to return, citing the comments from businesses and local organizations who benefitted from the program.
“I think for the project overall, the fact that we’re basing our thoughts on anecdotal scenarios is tremendous, because that means that we didn’t have one item that we could pinpoint to say we had a negative component,” said COun. Campbell Watt.
The city will revise the bylaw allowing the public consumption of alcohol in designated places before presenting it to council for approval next year.
Additional funding for improved garbage and recycling to account for the program is included in the 2021 draft budget for $88,500.
With files from Jesse Day
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