drinking in parks toronto

Toronto votes against the legalization of alcohol in public parks

Toronto will not be joining other such world class cities as Paris, London, Montreal, Sydney or even Calgary this summer to allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages (with stipulations, among adults) in public parks.

But it might consider exploring the idea next year or something, maybe?

After a highly anticipated debate at City Hall on Thursday, City Council voted 17 to 2 in favour of a motion to block the lifting of a long and controversial ban on park drinking.

The original motion, put forward by councillor Josh Matlow, proposed that council "approve a pilot project to allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages that do not exceed 15 percent alcohol by volume in the City of Toronto's public parks and beaches."

Drinks would only be permitted in parks from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., from May 21 until Oct. 31, and not within a certain distance of playgrounds or sports fields.

"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," read Matlow's motion.

"Cities of similar size around the world including Montreal, Vancouver, London, Paris, and Sydney permit residents to drink in parks."

While the idea of legal outdoor drinking has proven popular among many young Toronto residents, old city councillors were not on board today.

Toronto Mayor John Tory put forth a motion of his own in response to Matlow's bill, recommending that every part of "Enjoying a Drink Outdoors: Providing Safe, Responsible and Equitable Options for All" be nixed in favour of approving a report on what drinking in Toronto parks might look like.

Tory's motion — which, again, passed with near unanimity — reccomended that:

"City Council direct the General Manager, Parks Forestry and Recreation, in consultation with Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, the City Solicitor and the Medical Officer of Health, to report to the Economic and Community Development Committee early in the second quarter of 2023 with options, including necessary by-law amendments, to allow alcohol consumption in City of Toronto parks, based on the results of community and stakeholder consultations, safety considerations, the Toronto Drug Strategy and lessons learned from other Canadian jurisdictions."

In other words, city staff will develop a report sometime during the second quarter of next year with any potential bylaw amendments and other considerations needed to proceed with legal park beers.

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 many in the city flat out ignore this rule (have you been to the beach? or Trinity Bellwoods Park?)

Residents can be ticketed $300 for having open alcohol in a park — a fine that Matlow has argued is unfair for people who don't have their own backyards in which to enjoy a few drinks with friends.

Many in the city are rolling their eyes at Toronto City Council's thwarting of such a simple rule change.

Tweeted Matlow after the vote: "Toronto city council, worrying about everything under the sun, is actively working on watering down my motion into something worse than a bad beer."

Cheers to that.

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert

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