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'City says enforcing alcohol ban in Toronto parks 'not a priority'

One week after officials claimed drinking in parks would undo Toronto's COVID-19 measures, the city announces officers will turn a blind eye to individual imbibers
May 10, 2021
Bryan Passifiume

Just one week after Councillor Josh Matlow’s failed attempt to overturn the city’s prohibition on beer and wine in city parks, a City of Toronto press release issued on Friday essentially made it a moot point by establishing that both municipal bylaw and Toronto Police officers will turn a blind eye on those who choose to crack open a cold one on city property.

“Bylaw enforcement officers are also focused on stopping people from bringing large amounts of alcohol into public places,” read a line buried near the end of the statement, adding only 69 tickets were handed out last year to those imbibing in city parks.

“Individuals consuming an alcoholic beverage in a park with their household are not a priority for enforcement.”

The city’s economic and development committee voted unanimously on April 27 to essentially shelve Matlow’s proposal to launch a pilot project permitting low-alcohol beverages on public parks and beaches between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. throughout the spring and summer.

Matlow’s proposal was roundly pilloried by his fellow councillors and city officials, with Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa saying the proposal would undo Toronto Public Health’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“When alcohol becomes part of the picture, we know that people become disinhibited and are less able and less likely to adhere to self-protection measures,” de Villa told the committee.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city is far too occupied dealing with the pandemic to even be looking into permitting drinking in parks.

“I think it is something that I am sure we will take a look at in the right way, at the right time,” he said at a press conference last week.

Matlow said his proposal would make things fair for the scores of condo and apartment dwellers in the city who lack the luxury of a backyard.

“There are those of us with backyards where we do have the privilege and ability to sit with a family member and have a glass of wine or a beer,” he said.