A bid by Vancouver park board to test cold beer and wine sales at a pair of local beaches is mired in red tape.
The pilot project, approved last fall, was set to start in May at English Bay and Kitsilano Beach and run until September. But as of Monday, with summer in full-swing, that pilot project was two months delayed and counting and there was no booze in the hands of beachgoers — legally anyway.
The liquor sales pilot was intended to be a collaboration between the parks board and the English Bay Cactus Club and the Kitsilano Beach Boathouse. Each of those businesses had applied for temporary extensions to their existing food primary liquor licences to include concession areas, according to parks board staff.
At English Bay, a sign at the Cactus Club’s Beach Bar, around the side of its ground-level patio, stated that drinks like Granville Island Brewing’s IPA or Nude Vodka Soda were “coming soon!”
The reason for the months-long delay is that “it takes a while” to get approval from the province, said Daria Wojnarski, a parks board spokeswoman. The two restaurants have been working with both the city’s Liquor Licence Group and the province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to get the necessary approvals, she said.
When the Ministry of Attorney General was asked for its take on what has caused the delay, Cathy Dargie, a spokeswoman at the ministry, issued a written statement that said application requirements are “detailed and robust in the interest of due diligence and public safety.”
As to when the project might be approved, Dargie said the province can’t comment on specific liquor licence applications.
The lack of official alcohol sales at the two parks did not dampen the spirits of tourists and locals who chose to celebrate Canada Day with a drink at the beach. Among them was Simon Conroy, a relatively new arrival to Canada from Dublin, Ireland, who was quaffing a Pabst Blue Ribbon on a log in the sand.
“If you bring a plastic bag for your rubbish and take (it) with you I don’t see a problem with it,” Conroy said of drinking in the park. He said if people keep to themselves, drink just a few cans, avoid getting rowdy and be responsible, there should be no issue.
Stacey Wade, who was with Conroy and other friends, said most people aren’t coming to the park to get drunk and ruin everyone else’s day.
Grischa Grzybowski and Nicole Weber, in town from Dusseldorf, Germany, were among those who had stopped at the Beach Bar to eat and grab a drink.
Asked whether they would have bought alcohol rather than the soft drinks that were in their disposable cups, Grzybowski said he probably would have purchased a beer. In Germany, drinking a beer in public would not be an issue, he said. “You can’t have everything.”
Weber said she doesn’t really drink.
Elsewhere, people chatted and laughed while drinking from cans of Budweiser, Cariboo Malt, Corona and vodka soda. As of Monday mid-afternoon there was no rowdiness to be spotted.
Park board commissioners have previously acknowledged that alcohol consumption at beaches already happens, despite rules against it and the threat of a $230 fine.
A Sept. 2018 report to parks board commissioners included results from a survey that found 79 per cent of respondents were in favour of the sale of alcoholic beverages at concessions. Only 16 per cent of respondents disagreed.
If approvals are granted in time, beer and wine will still be offered at the concessions this season, Wojnarski said.
The pilot project was intended to help staff determine the feasibility of expanded alcohol sales in park concessions within the next three to five years.