drinking in toronto parks

Toronto puts the kibosh on plan to allow drinking in parks this summer

In a move that should surprise nobody familiar with Toronto's weird, puritanical bent, city officials just crushed the dreams of anyone who had hoped to drink alcohol (legally) in public parks this summer.

The city's Economic and Community Development Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon to effectively reject councillor Josh Matlow's recently submitted motion entitled "Enjoying a Drink Outdoors: Providing Safe, Responsible and Equitable Options for All Torontonians."

Matlow's motion to allow drinking in parks this summer wasn't outright quashed, but city hall experts say it might as well have been: It has been "referred" to staff for consideration with no date on which they must report back.

"The move effectively kills the motion," noted The Star's Jennifer Pagliaro, who similarly tweeted following the vote that "there will be no legal drinking in parks this summer."

Councillors at today's meeting presented a variety of arguments to justify their votes against the motion, including public health concerns, enforcement resources and the need for further research.

The committee's leader, Councillor Michael Thompson, went so far as to say that Toronto isn't "the city of 'no' but the city of 'not right now.'"

Residents are getting a kick out of that as they point out on Twitter that the decision was made in large part by people with their own houses and private outdoor drinking spaces.

"Toronto is governed by people with back yards," wrote journalist Shawn Micallef in a pointed Twitter rant against the vote. "If THIS (or last) summer is not 'critical', this person has been spending the entirety of the pandemic zooming from their pool house."

Annoyed as they may be that "Toronto the Good" is rearing its snooty head again, many people in the city are saying that the legality of drinking in parks doesn't really even matter.

We've all been doing it for many years without much of a problem, after all.

"Key word being "'legal.' Committee may be stuck in 1921, but this won't stop Torontonians from drinking in parks in 2021," wrote one Twitter user in response to the news.

"A cold one in Bellwoods tastes better with an air of transgression anyways," joked another.

Others are going after councillors who voted to defer Matlow's motion, pointing out that it's fully legal to smoke cannabis in parks, that many other major cities allow alcoholic beverage consumption outdoors, and that drinking outside feels a lot safer right now than gathering indoors.

"That's right. Drink indoors, close to one another, huddled up with less airflow and ventilation. In the middle of a pandemic," wrote one resident.

"Why is Toronto one of the only major cities (probably on Earth) that doesn't allow drinking in public parks?" wrote another.

"Do city councillors and bureaucrats know something that the rest of the world hasn't figured out yet? Lame."

While many people do drink in parks on the reg, Toronto's 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.

In his original motion, Matlow argued that these rules — 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," he wrote in in an open letter to the Toronto Infrastructure & Environment Committee earlier this month.

"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."

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil

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