VICTORIA -- The District of Saanich will consider a motion that would allow the open drinking of alcohol in 14 of its municipal parks at a council meeting Monday.

The motion is intended to support local businesses and encourage social interaction in outdoor spaces that can accommodate physical distancing.

If adopted, the motion would allow public consumption of alcohol between noon and 8 p.m. daily, in specific areas of each park.

The drinking areas would have new signage installed to mark their boundaries.

The proposed program would be in effect until September 30, 2020, at which point it could be repealed or allowed to continue after Saanich council had time to review a report drafted by district staff.

“One option to diversify the use of public space could be to permit the public consumption of liquor in certain parks to provide residents with the opportunity for informal outdoor places to socialise with family and friends while supporting local businesses,” reads a staff report on the motion that was submitted to Saanich council.

The report notes that other B.C. municipalities, like North Vancouver and Penticton, have recently permitted open drinking.

However, the report also covers potential challenges related to the program.

Staff say that the public consumption of liquor could lead to increased garbage and litter and a potential increase in “public unruliness.”

“Normally, this type of initiative would include engagement with the community, businesses and health officials; however, these are not normal times,” reads the report.

Meanwhile, the Saanich Police Department has said that it does not support the proposed motion.

In a statement included in the district’s staff report, the police department said that the proposal would likely lead to “unacceptable social behaviours that may not be criminal but result in additional calls for service.”

The department adds that in other B.C. municipalities where open drinking has been permitted, police are supported by bylaw officers.

Police say that Saanich does not have adequate bylaw enforcement capabilities to help police manage the risks that public drinking may result in.

Saanich will consider the motion at a special council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday.

The 14 parks where open drinking areas are proposed are:

  • Beckwith Park
  • Braefoot Park
  • Cadboro-Gyro Park
  • Cedar Hill Park
  • Craigflower-Kosapsom Park
  • Gorge Park
  • Gorge Waterway Park
  • Hampton Park
  • Hyacinth Park
  • Lambrick Park
  • Lochside Park
  • Playfair Park
  • Tyndall Park
  • Whitehead Park