Boonstock music festival grounds near Penticton Monday

Summertime and drinking is easy

The B.C. government’s move to ease liquor restrictions is undergoing its hot summer test, and music festivals are only part of it

VICTORIA – The B.C. government’s move to ease liquor restrictions is undergoing its hot summer test, and music festivals are only part of it.

Premier Christy Clark’s government loves its populist gestures, and as with increasing rural highway speed limits, the negative effects have yet to be quantified.

Free-range drinking, or removing fences from festival beer gardens, is one of the moves that will be undergoing a post-mortem as communities clean up after their big summer parties.

One of the biggest, the Squamish Valley Music Festival with headline acts Arcade Fire, Bruno Mars and Eminem, is still to come, Aug. 8 to 10. Country fans gathered over the long weekend for Sunfest in the Cowichan Valley, with the Rockin’ River Musicfest in Mission coming up next.

(Another big bash next weekend is Shambhala, the popular electronic music event on a farm near Nelson, but alcohol is officially banned there and their big issue is controlling the effects of “ecstasy” and other rave drugs.)

Early reviews of free-range festivals have been positive. Victoria’s Rock the Shores event went smoothly without a fenced-in area for alcohol sales. Festival organizers did create a fenced “dry” area, but I’m told hardly anyone used it.

Penticton has had its share of experience with summer bashes gone bad. For B.C. Day it inherited the Boonstock Music and Arts festival, sent packing from a small community in Alberta after complaints of rowdy crowds and crime, so Penticton officials were understandably cautious.

Boonstock organizers were refused a provincial liquor licence after struggling to arrange security and emergency services. The festival licence process is likely getting renewed attention these days.

After attending the recent Calgary Folk Festival, where the beer garden was securely fenced and the capacity monitored, I’m wondering what is really achieved by these measures. Litter and empties were contained, but since under-aged festival visitors are allowed into the serving area, it’s not clear to me whether the fence was ever worth the effort.

It’s unlikely that there will be riots at farm markets as a result of allowing sales of locally made beer, wine and spirits, or from relaxing rules for operation of winery tasting rooms. But there are more reforms to come.

New regulations are on the way for the Agricultural Land Reserve. As it stands, farms are allowed to have a winery or cidery, but not a brewery or distillery. Expect that to be changed as B.C. and other provinces strive to develop their craft beer and spirits industry, trying to emulate the tourism benefits that have come from an expanding wine industry.

One area where the B.C. government has screwed up is its minimum pricing rules, introduced along with the overdue move to allow “happy hour” discounts in pubs.

The minimum price of 25 cents an ounce for beer, 60 cents an ounce for wine and $3 an ounce for hard liquor was an effort to balance business-friendly policy with legitimate public health concern about over-consumption.

But the minimum beer price prompted protests from a few watering holes that had been selling pints or jugs of beer for slightly less. Some media made a big deal of this, and the government over-reacted to this tempest in a beer stein with an ill-thought-out cut in the minimum price to 20 cents an ounce – for beer in jugs only.

The pub industry was not impressed with this bit of knee-jerk populism. Encouraging beer jug sales makes it difficult to see if someone at a table of revelers is being over-served, drinking most of the jug himself.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Bulkley Valley SD 54 superintendent leaving

Chris van der Mark has been superintendent with SD54 for eight years, and has hands full in Cariboo.

B.C. chiefs show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Chiefs from around B.C. outside the Coastal GasLink pipeline route in Smithers show support.

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

RCMP to review actions at Wet’suwet’en pipeline protest camps

Senior Mountie says he hopes protests will be peaceful following deal with hereditary chiefs

Houston property assessments nudge up

District now working on 2019 spending plans

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

Doug Ford says the Liberals’ carbon tax will plunge Canada into recession

The Ontario premier said there are already warning signs of difficult economic times ahead

Kamala Harris opens U.S. presidential bid in challenge to Trump

The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Woman offers luxury Alberta home for just $25 and a flair for the written word

Alla Wagner ran into health problems, which forced her to list the 5,000-square-foot estate at market value

46% of Canadians $200 or less away from financial insolvency: poll

45% cent of those surveyed say they will need to go further into debt to pay their living and family expenses

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Most Read