Toronto city council quashes bid to allow alcohol in public parks and on beaches this summer

If you were hoping city council would allow you to legally crack open a beer or sip a glass of wine in a Toronto public park or on a beach this summer, you’re out of luck — at least until next year.

Councillors voted 17-2 Thursday to approve Mayor John Tory’s motion to disallow the drinking of alcoholic beverages further in parks this year, and direct staff to study the issue and report back in 2023. That was an amendment to Coun. Josh Matlow’s motion to permit alcohol consumption this summer at parks and beaches with public washrooms from 11 am to 9 pm

Matlow, who represents Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul’s, wasn’t pleased with the turn of events.

“We don’t need lots and lots of these studies to determine what the rest of the world has already discovered, which is that responsible adults act responsibly,” he said after losing the vote.

Had council approved Matlow’s motion, the city would have been directed to set up a pilot project running from May to October this year.

Tory’s amended motion instead directed staff to report back to the city’s economic and community development committee in the second quarter next year on options, bylaw amendments, input from community consultations, safety considerations and Toronto’s drug strategy.

Tory said he wasn’t “ruling anything out” but wanted city policies to make a clear distinction between a case of wine and a glass of wine. He told council he has seen residents bring in cases of wine and kegs of beer into parks.

Denzil Minnan-Wong, who represents Ward 16, Don Valley West and is one of Tory’s deputy mayors, agreed that it’s a “complex issue” and needs more study.

“This is not ready for us,” Minnan-Wong said.

Coun. Josh Matlow, who represents Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul’s, put forward a motion to set up a pilot project that would have allowed Torontonians to drink in public parks and on beaches this summer. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

But Matlow said Toronto is “way behind the rest of the world” when it comes to rules governing public alcohol consumption. He repeated his point that “many Torontonians don’t have backyards and don’t want to be treated like scofflaws” when having a drink in the park.

This was the second time during the COVID-19 pandemic that Matlow had pushed for allowing alcohol consumption in parks. In April last year, the economic and community development committee quashed a similar motion, sending it back to staff for further study.

That move was an attempt to make it disappear, Matlow said.

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