It’s that time of the year in Canada when we trade in our winter boots and down-filled jackets for shorts and ball caps. We walk out of our air-tight apartments blinking into the sun, stumbling in search of outdoor space. As soon as the thermometer hits 10C we’re on patios, sometimes still in toques, covered in blankets, and tucked underneath space heaters, but we’re on a patio dammit!
We live so much of our lives avoiding the cold that as soon as that sun starts to warm our cold hearts we’re ready to swig as much golden ale and booze-filled slush as possible on a packed picnic bench, tucked behind a fence. We love our patios, beer gardens, and other equally restrictive outdoor pens to consume alcohol.
Because we love it so much if means that we’re often hunting for elusive patio space, turning up disappointed. I don’t want to disparage the wonderful world of patios, there is little better than spending an entire afternoon with friends and beers, but, I’m no high roller and that gets expensive. Then think about festivals, being tucked into an area that often doesn’t allow you to enjoy the music, has a long line, and overpriced beer. This is not ideal.
But what are we to do? We can’t just go to a park on a sunny Sunday afternoon with a group of friends to casually enjoy a beverage or two like the (semi)respectable adults that we are. To which I say, why the hell not?!
I rant about this with some degree of regularity and I’ve never once heard anyone disagree (albeit, I am friends with likeminded humans). But for the sake of things, lets give this a broader shout: our liquor laws are needlessly restrictive and we should absolutely be able to drink in public places.
This is, of course, not the norm in North America, but when you look around to the rest of the world you quickly see that our relationship with alcohol is very different than most other nations. Alcohol here is treated like a dirty secret, or something that should proudly be exploited whereas in many other countries it is less restricted and more widely accepted as a part of everyday life.
I feel like I’m getting slightly off track and distracted by the social meaning we tie to alcohol so lets focus up. Booze in public! (Which just as a point of reference can get you $115 fine.)
I imagine most people who think restrictions are worthwhile would argue that, if we loosened the laws there would be more incidence of drunk and disorderly people and (I assume) a total catastrophic meltdown of society.
Instead of buying into that nonsense, we should look around to see how other countries handle this. Most that allow public consumption of alcohol (of which there are many) have regulations to control drunken behaviour, so if you’re drinking its fine, but if you are a menace because of that drinking you can be fined or arrested.
Second, most have laws where at anytime a police officer can tell you to put away the alcohol. I think this covers the fear of anyone putting themselves or others at risk and still allows the city or state to maintain power. Then, some cities have even laid out areas where public consumption is and is not allowed. There are also countries where you can enjoy beer and wine publicly but no hard alcohol, or in parks but not on transit, or on certain occasions but not others.
The point is, there are many different ways to handle this that can lead to a positive and safe loosening of regulations. I’m tired of waiting to get into beer gardens, then feeling stuck inside. I’m tired of wanting to enjoy a beer and a frisbee with my friends but trying to hide it from anyone else in the park. I’m tired of searching for a patio and getting stuck indoors. And, I’m tired of feeling like a delinquent because of our staunch regulations that frames my behaviour as deviant and irresponsible.
I can’t help but find this entire situation nonsensical. They say serving alcohol in an establishment means I won’t get over-served and I won’t leave too drunk and I won’t be a danger, but that isn’t the case. I can get drunk in a beer garden and then go wander around outside and people don’t say a word, but I’m not allowed to drink a glass of wine in a park with a friend?
Instead of regulating our consumption, lets regulate the behaviour. If you’re well-behaved you’re good to go, if you’re a threat to yourself and others its time to leave. We all know that we’re all doing it anyways. We have wine at picnics, beer in dugouts, baileys in our travel mugs, and gin in our flasks hidden in our backpacks. So lets stop the charade.