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Torontonians could be drinking alcohol in public parks this summer, city councillor to present motion

Last Updated Apr 12, 2021 at 2:36 pm EDT

Park beers could become a reality in the city this summer.

Councillor Josh Matlow will present a motion at this month’s infrastructure and environment committee meeting calling on the city to launch a pilot project to allow for the consumption of alcohol in public parks and beaches with washroom facilities.

If successful, the pilot would run from the Victoria Day long weekend until Halloween, the alcohol content of the drinks can’t be more than 15 percent – and drinking hours would be limited from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Matlow says heading into the second summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is up to the city to create environments where social connections with friends and family can be made in the safest way possible way.

“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,” said Matlow.

“Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor who studies infectious diseases at McMaster University has been quoted saying that ‘there’s all these reports of transmission in bars and house parties. So why don’t we mitigate that risk? Let’s use the outdoors rather than forcing people indoors for their gatherings.'”

Toronto does not keep race-based statistics on the issuance of tickets for drinking in parks, Matlow says, but cites an example from New York City that shows in 2020, the New York Police Department issued 1,250 criminal summonses issued for drinking in public.

Of that number 48 percent went to Black people, 43 percent to Hispanics, and only 7 percent went to white people.

The committee meeting is scheduled for April 28th.

“We don’t want people congregating indoors for a drink during a pandemic,” said Matlow on Saturday.

“… Those who behave badly in parks, do it regardless of by-laws. Let’s allow grown-ups to enjoy a drink together, safely and responsibly, outdoors.”

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