Beer beach

Drinking in some public places could be perfectly legal in Penticton this summer.

City council ordered staff Tuesday to begin work on a plan to licence places it controls like Gyro Park or Skaha Beach to allow people to enjoy a bottle of wine or knock back a few beers.

The proposal came from Coun. Campbell Watt, who suggested trying as a “very restricted” pilot project for one day a week to start.

Watt said people would be encouraged to show up with take-out food and beverages from local places, which will be running with reduced seating capacity due to COVID-19 precautions.

“I think it’s also really important to get our residents out of their houses,” added Watt.

Coun. Frank Regehr said the idea is good in principle, but wouldn’t stop people from showing up with booze made elsewhere and purchased at a liquor store

“I would like to be feeling fairly confident if it proceeded that it would actually benefit local businesses,” said Regehr.

Coun. Katie Robinson said the idea is worth a shot anyway.

“These are really unusual times and I think somewhat slackening a little bit of the strict rules that we’ve had had in place might be a good idea at this particular time,” said Robinson.

“I would like to see a very detailed plan, and as long as it’s done properly with some strict controls in place, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Ironically, the bylaw that allows the city to regulate the consumption of alcohol in public places was signed by then-mayor Jake Kimberley in 1992 to cut off the flow of booze following a riot at an MC Hammer concert.

Also on Tuesday, council agreed to join with other communities around the province in asking the B.C. government to loosen licensing rules for pubs, restaurants and breweries to open up more outdoor space for them to serve customers.

Finally, Coun. Julius Bloomfield was given the go-ahead by his mates to plant the seeds for a campaign to push the B.C. government to allow wineries to have secondary tasting rooms off-site, such as in downtown Penticton.