It’s been a month since the City of Calgary allowed people to drink alcohol in its parks. So far, the project appears to be running well.
The program launched on June 1 in order to let people connect socially outside.
“It’s been very successful so far,” said Laura Smith, a team leader with Calgary Parks.
As part of the project, picnic tables in designated parks around the city may be reserved for a maximum of two hours from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Alcohol may be consumed at these sites.
“Personally, I think the project has been running good,” said Thao Huynh, an accountant who made use of the pilot project once. “It’s actually a fun project when we can freely have alcohol in public.”
Drinking was originally allowed at only 30 selected picnic tables. It’s now up to 56. The tables are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and they can be booked online as well.
“It’s easy to book the table online,” said Huynh.
People just need to go to the website, choose the area, date, start time, and end time. The site then shows a list of available parks, which a user can reserve.
Huynh recently booked a table but she notes that most places tend to be fully booked on weekends.
“I think the project is becoming more popular now,” she said.
Calgarians seem to really enjoy the project. Smith says it’s had about 1300 bookings so far.
Smith says that this is not a program for partying in parks or for promoting alcohol consumption. A glass of wine or beer is not excessive consumption.
She recognizes that people have many legitimate concerns about the project. The City’s intent with the pilot project is to see whether the concerns will materialize, or it is a little bit of worry for nothing.
“Fortunately, we’ve seen that the concern so far has not arisen,” said Smith. “Calgarians are fairly pretty responsible with the program.”
She said that the city had one complaint about litter at a picnic site on June 29. They have been carefully monitoring matters related to disruptive or drunk behavior in public.
“We have not seen that at all,” she said
As a project user, Huynh has the same experience.
“As far as I know, people are quite responsible when drinking in the public,” she said.
If there are any concerns with disruptive behavior or public intoxication, Smith says that people can call 311. A bylaw officer would come to investigate the issue and has the ability to issue a ticket.
Interestingly, the project has also assisted some restaurants in increasing their sale of alcohol.
“More sales come in now,” said Maia Pineault, general manager with Una Pizza in Bridgeland. “We are selling more booze.”
People order wine or beer with their pizza and go consume both at the nearby designated picnic sites.
Una Pizza’s Bridgeland location, which is located on 7A Street NE, opened in March. Pineault says that between the project and re-opening for dine-in, business is getting better.
“Take-away sales have been pretty consistent the entire time, which is nice for us,” she said.
The alcohol consumption project will continue until Sept. 7, 2021.
Calgary Parks will evaluate the project and report back to the city council in November with recommendations on what to do in the future.
Huynh hopes the project will be back for next year “as long as people know their limits, drink responsibly, and respect others at another table at the park.”