With some prompting from the City of Charlottetown, the P.E.I. government is considering taking a look at whether it would be OK to allow Islanders to have a glass of wine or beer at a picnic.
Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown told Island Morning's Laura Chapin that the idea was brought up by a downtown restaurant and bar owner during a meeting with Discover Charlottetown, Downtown Charlottetown Inc. and some downtown business owners back in May.
It was suggested as a way to support restaurants during the pandemic. People could perhaps have a picnic delivered to one of the city's parks, along with beer or wine. The liquor laws are an area of provincial jurisdiction, but Brown said he was happy to take the idea to two city committees.
"This is an opportunity to be innovative, creative, and look at all options. And everything's on the table," said Brown.
Darlene Compton, the minister responsible for the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission, said she is absolutely willing to discuss the idea. Other parts of Canada have also been talking about loosening the rules, noting that enjoying alcohol with picnics is common in Europe.
"In some ways, it is antiquated," said Compton.
"It would be great to say that we could have a drink and do it responsibly in a park or any public destination."
How such a change might benefit restaurants would depend a lot on the details, said Carl Nicholson, president of the P.E.I. Restaurants Association.
"What constitutes eating at the picnic table? Is it a bag of chips and a few apples?" he said.
"It could create a very grey area as far as consumption of alcohol outside, as opposed to being able to consume it in a controlled environment inside a restaurant or bar."
Nicholson said he has not had a chance to survey his members about the issue. He expects he would get a variety of opinions, with more support from businesses with established delivery service than from those that rely on dining rooms.
Policing an issue
But both Brown and Compton said policing would have to be part of the discussion.
"Being from a rural constituency, one of my main concerns would be drinking responsibly and having a designated driver," said Compton.
Delivery to an outdoor venue is very different than delivery to a home, she said, where driving is not necessarily an issue. Comparisons to Europe only go so far, she said, because the public transportation networks are much better and there is not so much need for people to drive.
"To compare us to Europe is probably not the best comparison you can make because most places [on P.E.I.] you have to get in a vehicle and drive," she said.
Proposed changes would involve discussions with the RCMP, she said, as well as with the Department of Justice and Department of Public Safety and the Department of Health.
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