drinking in parks toronto

Toronto could soon allow beer and wine drinking in parks

Even though you may not actually get ticketed if you're caught drinking in a Toronto park, the ubiquitous practice still isn't technically permitted according to city bylaws, though the province is all for it.

But, Toronto's rules may soon be changing to resemble those in places like Vancouver and Montreal if city councillors have their way.

In light of the lockdown measures we've been living under in some iteration for more than year now, Ward 12 Toronto-St. Paul's Councillor Josh Matlow is asking the city to consider easing the rules that prohibit imbibing in public green spaces.

Toronto Municipal Code currently states that no person in a park can "have in their possession an open container of any liquor" or "consume, serve or sell liquor," among other things, though you may not know it by visiting Trinity-Bellwoods on a sunny Saturday.

Matlow says these statutes, which can land residents with a $3o0 ticket, are unfair to those who may not have outdoor space of their own in which to safely and legally enjoy a drink or two in the outdoors, especially while in lockdown.

"Last summer, council recognized the importance of being able to enjoy a drink outside by loosening restrictions on patios with the successful CafeTO program, which will be brought back this year," Matlow wrote in an open letter to the Toronto Infrastructure & Environment Committee on Sunday.

"However, what about Torontonians that can’t afford a drink in a bar or don’t have an outdoor space in their homes? These residents should not be left with unsafe options such as gathering indoors or, like many over the past year, choosing to drink illegally in parks."

Mayor John Tory is also among those who have expressed support for the idea, saying back in 2018 that he thinks most people in the city are responsible about park drinking, and that the world hasn't come to an end as a result of citizens enjoying some wine in their local green space.

Though he said then that the bylaws should be reconsidered, they have remained as is, even with Premier Doug Ford's similar stance on the issue.

But Matlow is reviving the push for such amendments again, pointing out that permitting alcohol consumption in parks, even just as a temporary pilot program like Vancouver's, could actually help mitigate COVID-19 spread by giving people an alternative to getting together in their homes.

Though private indoor gatherings are currently banned provincewide and we are under a stay-at-home order, it is set to be lifted in four weeks, and the COVID fatigue is more palpable than ever, especially for those of us who live alone. 

If some people are going to get together with loved ones anyway, we may as well help facilitate this to be outdoors and as safe as possible.

And as for the peripheral problems that come with public drinking — such as people making excessive noise, littering and urinating on private property — Matlow notes that these things are already illegal and are still taking place, and are also coming from a select few.

"Those who behave irresponsibly are not concerned with existing policies," he writes. 

"This motion seeks to increase and focus enforcement on problem behaviours that are already occurring by freeing up resources while loosening restrictions for responsible adults who wish to responsibly and safely enjoy a beer or glass of wine."

He formally recommends that the city introduce a pilot program to sanction the consumption of alcoholic beverages up to 15% ABV in public parks and beaches with public washrooms between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. from May 21 until Oct. 31 of this year, to start.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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