City council passed a motion on Jan. 25 directing administration to conduct public engagement to identify picnic sites within city parks that may be appropriate for liquor consumption. Following the consultation, a report to council will be provided on the results, costs, and timelines to install the necessary signage.
Currently the province allows leeway for municipalities to decide if people can drink in public parks, so the decision of whether to designate some or all picnic sites for alcohol consumption falls to the city.
Coun. Jon Dziadyk brought the motion forward, and 12 voted in favour, with Coun. Tony Caterina voting against, citing a lack of public demand for the idea.
"We're still hoping Edmontonians can socialize with social distancing," said Dziadyk. "I think if we do this right...we could introduce this concept in 2021."
Some councillors were skeptical about the changes but were willing to move forward to see the results of public engagement.
"We'd be naive to think the odd occasion mug of wine or covered up beer isn't already consumed in our park quietly, so I fear this is opening up a can of worms," said Coun. Scott McKeen.
The city's Youth Council brought forward this idea in June 2019, but council opted to wait until the province made a decision about its plans before moving forward.
The topic was introduced again in early 2020, but council delayed a discussion about potential rule changes while it dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.