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

New X-ray machine at the South Similkameen Health Centre will be up and running after Labour Day

Interior Health confirms the equipment was replaced because it was an old version

Local artists hold first annual Keremeos Art Walk

Painter Bonny Roberts hopes to make Keremeos’ first art walk an annual event

The Offspring and Sum41 ready to rock Penticton

The Offspring and Sum 41 will stop in Penticton to the South Okanagan Events Centre

Motorcyclist involved in Westside Road crash

Air ambulance assists while motorists face lengthy delays

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Man launches petition to bring charter schools to B.C.

The move could see up to 20 charter schools come to the province

Okanagan’s alleged “Deadpool” robber revealed

RCMP catch up with suspect following gas station robbery earlier this month

RCMP searching for missing Kelowna hitchhiker

Cody Kolodychuk was last heard from on July 31 and was thought to be hitchhiking in the Vernon area

South Okanagan pays it forward to BC Wildfire Service firefighters

Community members thank Eagle Bluff firefighters through Tim Hortons donations

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Most Read