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President’s Update: August 2017

Over the last 2 1/2 years being the head of the Vancouver branch of this organization, I’ve had a chance to speak to a lot of people at various events across the lower mainland. A very common question I have for them is “What is the most important issue for you as a beer consumer?” Our more “old school” membership base will usually answer serving sizes – that they want to get the exact amount of beer they are paying for. Definitely a noble effort and a cause that CAMRA has found very important. But when I get outside of that immediate circle of card carrying members, I find that my answer changes dramatically. When I talk to everyday consumers, not necessarily members of our non-profit society, the most common answer I get is the ability to drink in public. This is quickly become a very important issue to modern-day beer consumers – and we want to see something done about it.

First, why is it so important? Well, it’s a few things. For one thing the demographic of beer consumers across the province is changing. As we get older, new consumers enter the market and the beer drinking experience is changing as they come in. For one thing, you can go to virtually any private liquor store or brewery and pick up good, local beer at an affordable price. Gone are the days of having to hit up your local to get a specific beer. We have more options than ever before. As a result, people are taking local beer into their lives; bringing it home, to family gatherings, and into parks and beaches. Let’s just call out the elephant in the room: people drink in public settings. Technically people do so illegally but they still do it. They do so knowing it is illegal, but also knowing that they’re not inflicting any harm if they have one beer at the beach when they’re sitting around in the sun. They also do so because they know that in most modern societies it is perfectly acceptable to do this – but not here. Why is it illegal in British Columbia to drink in public? Well, it’s not.
Under provincial liquor policies, “a public place, or part of it, may be designated, by a bylaw of the municipality or regional district that has jurisdiction over the public place, as a place where liquor may be consumed.” (s 73, Liquor Control and Licensing Act of British Columbia).
WHOA! What? It’s true! In fact, I did speak with the City of Vancouver a few times about this very thing. You may have heard but the city is currently undergoing a series of liquor reforms. When I spoke to one of the senior liquor analysts at City Hall, he simply told me that the idea of opening up a public drinking space in Vancouver was not up for discussion. He did tell me that they were planning on making it easier to have beer garden like scenarios in the city, And that that was very similar to what the consumers are asking for. I disagreed. People want to be able to buy a six-pack and go enjoy it with a few friends rather than having one beer in a beer garden for the same price as that six-pack. They want to be able to go and enjoy their favourite park in the evening after dinner when things are winding down and they’re getting ready to go to work the next day. They don’t want beer gardens that are going to inevitably draw in people that are coming in exclusively for the purpose of getting loaded. When I pressed these issues on him he understood. He explained to me that the beer drinking demographic that I represent are not the people that they’re concerned about. Fair. Most good things will get ruined by a few edge cases; but the reality is that the majority of people can be responsible with their alcohol in a public setting.
My conversation at City Hall got me thinking, though. What if we set out to prove the people can drink in a public park or beach responsibly? The board and I threw around a few ideas as to how we could demonstrate this. Ultimately, it came with a hard decision… we would have to take demonstrative action that would require us to go against the law. 
 
Sunday August 27th, between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm, you are cordially invited to join us at first beach in English Bay for a beer drinking protest.
What does that mean?
  • This will be a family friendly event where people will be encouraged to bring their kids, beach games, and some food. There will be no beer for sale or supplied to anyone at the event; but some of us will be bringing a beer to drink responsibly at the event as a form of protest.
  • People are expected to behave intelligently and responsibly.
  • We will be notifying the Vancouver Police Department and they can choose to send officers to oversee it if they so choose.
  • Additionally, we will be notifying media so they can cover the story.
  • The executive team will be present to ensure that things don’t get out of hand and that we leave the place spotless.
The short of it is: if you want to come and cause a scene or get unbelievably drunk, stay home! This is an opportunity for responsible drinkers to show to the local government that they can enact these bylaws and not be afraid of what the population will do. This is very specifically detailed by Paddy Trevor, president of the British Columbia Society in a statement HERE
If you come to the event, you come to it knowing that you’re willfully breaking the law and may be fined. It is our hope that in being transparent with the Police Department and working with them they will see that we mean no harm and are simply looking to evolve the scene for consumers across the lower mainland.
If you think this event is for you and you would like to be a part of driving change forward, please join us. You can RSVP for the event through this link, which will help us know how many people to expect – and plan accordingly. My hope is that this event to be very effective and that by next newsletter I will be detailing all of our successes!

 

David Perry

President, CAMRA Vancouver

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