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

Greyhound cleared to end routes in northern B.C., Vancouver Island

Company says nine routes have dropped 30% in ridership in last five years

How the provincial budget will play out in northwestern B.C.

Price of gasoline to rise and expect MSP premiums to disppear

Snow bikers have a lucky escape on Claque Mountain

Their experience highlights the importance of being properly prepared in the backcountry

Access to naloxone kits made easier

They’re now available from pharmacies

Airport registers modest passenger increase

Manager anticipates further growth in 2018 as expansion project nears completion

B.C. Games open with Olympic touch

The 2018 B.C. Winter Games kicked off in Kamloops

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

B.C. ski cross racer wins Olympic gold

Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa wins the gold medal in thrilling fashion in PyeongChang

Via Rail’s unofficial travelling art program

Jasper-Prince Rupert train has a car dedicated to art offered by the one-of-a-kind Bruce Brown

New charges against ex-Trump campaign associates

More charges were laid Thursday against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and his business associate

Man accused in death of Winnipeg teen Tina Fontaine not guilty

Raymond Cormier was accused of killing Indigenous 15-year-old and dumping her body in the Red River

Okanagan real estate agents brace for speculation tax impact

“There’s a real potential for a domino effect to hurt the market in Kelowna.”

Alberta drops B.C. wine boycott, Notley says Horgan ‘blinked’ on pipeline

B.C. government announces court reference on proposed diluted bitumen restriction

B.C. businesses say new health tax will raise prices for consumers

Province announced that MSP will be gone by 2020

Most Read