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

Viral video shows Sooke resident calling out illegal crab fishers

The video shows a man and woman with 12 undersized crabs in Sooke

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and MP Alistair MacGregor weigh in on fishing ban

Singh and MacGregor say improving salmon abundance is important

Feds respond to sexual assault investigation at CFB Esquimalt

Report of Oct. 5 sexual assault on Vancouver Island base taken over by Canadian Forces National Investigation Service

UVic getting two new buildings for student housing

University will get a new 600-seat dining hall, kitchen and small grocery area

Island Corridor Foundation optimistic about restoring rail service

If green-lighted, first priority would be Langford to Victoria route

VIDEO: ‘Teddy’s Trial’ adjourned until Dec. 4 to give Joe time to get new lawyer

Lawyer leaving for personal reasons led to postponement of pre-trial conference in Duncan

VIDEO: ‘Teddy’s Trial’ adjourned until Dec. 4 to give Joe time to get new lawyer

Lawyer leaving for personal reasons led to postponement of pre-trial conference in Duncan

Drug-related deaths double for B.C. youth in care, advocate says

Teens say positive connections with adults key to recovery

Children’s strawberry-flavoured medicines recalled due to faulty safety cap

Three different acetaminophen syrups part of nationwide recall

Around the BCHL: Junior A cities to host World Junior tuneup games

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

International students hit hard by B.C. tuition fee hikes

Campaign seeks regulatory controls be imposed on post-secondary institutions

Government looks for public input on Cathedral Grove safety concerns

Port Alberni, Parksville info sessions invite public to help ‘shape future access’

Trudeau pushes for more Saudi accountability in Khashoggi killing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is still seeking clear answers from Saudi Arabia about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

Most Read