Opinion

Liquor reforms give people freedom

This summer my plans include kicking back in an open field, drink in hand, as I watch band after band take the stage at one of the many music festivals on my to-do list.

Thanks to a host of reforms regulating liquor sales and consumption in B.C., I won’t have to hide that drink in a flask or a travel mug.

The restriction on booze at festivals was the first of more than 70 reforms that caught my attention.

The recommendations came through the B.C. Liquor Review final report, led by MLA John Yap, which took information, research and opinions from across the province.

Recommendations include removing fencing at festivals, hockey games and special events so that patrons can wander through the festival, rather than be fenced in.

It allows families to remain together, rather than having one parent at a time go off to have a drink.

Parents and children would also get to stay together at a pub, which, under the recommendations, would let children in up until a certain hour.

Being child-free, this made me shudder at first glance. But if I see it from the point of view of my friends with kids – whose children I find adorable even when they’re pitching fits – it offers them more choice in restaurants in a more relaxing environment than some “family-friendly” establishments.

Other highlights include loosening the restrictions on vineyards and breweries to offer tasting areas, or to sell their wares at farmers’ markets; ability for bars and pubs to offer “happy hours;” and offering liquor sales within grocery stores.

The report calls for expansion of the Serving It Right program to train more people in the responsibilities of serving alcohol, and administration changes around special occasion licences.

The B.C. Liberal government accepted all 73 recommendations but the timeline on implementing all of them, especially liquor in grocery stores, might take a significant period of time as the province consults with stakeholders in the community.

I’ve often heard from police officers and paramedics that if they could ban one drug it would be alcohol.

I don’t doubt that the substance contributes to social problems in our community – social problems that could be better solved through education, rather than prohibition.

Making people walk across a parking lot and conduct a second transaction on their credit card will not dissuade someone bent on buying a mickey of Potter’s rum.

I might one day be able to do what I did in Europe last summer – have a beer by the waterfront.

It felt like a moment from a movie, where I found myself sitting in the sunshine on the stone walkway next to the Weser River in Germany. As I updated my travel journal while I watched pedestrians, cyclers and the odd vehicle weave and dodge each other, off to my right two young men were also enjoying the afternoon with beer in green bottles that caught the brilliant sunlight. They talked quietly while they drank in public, and when they were done, they put their bottles in the recycling receptacle and left. It seemed so ... civilized.

The regular rules still apply – being drunk in public is still an offence, whether you’re sitting on a park bench or stumble out of a nightclub.

But as public parks – unless in the course of a festival or event – are not under consideration for allowing alcohol under these latest liquor reforms, so we all will have to continue to fly to Europe for that privilege.

editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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