Drinking in the park is not a “hipster” cause

Hipsters in park

If you follow me on twitter, first of all sorry, and second of all, you know I’ve been heavily promoting my own petition to allow alcoholic beverages in city parks.

And while I’m sure it’s a little obnoxious to have me spamming up your twitter feed, it seems to be working. Crazily, the petition I started over my lunch hour has amassed 2600 signatures in under 48 hours (and climbing–every time I refresh there’s a handful more).

My intention is still to approach city officials first (something I’ve already done, although my own city councilor Joe Mihevc and the councilor for Ward 19 Trinity Spadina, Mike Layton, have not yet returned my emails), although it seems like the issue might be one that needs to be addressed by the province as yet another item under the AGCO that needs revision. Regardless, I’m dedicated to figuring out who I need to talk to and how many signatures I’ll need in order for them to listen, so I’m going to keep at it (apologies in advance to the twitterverse).

However, it’s troubling that so much of the conversation on this issue–on twitter, on comment boards–seems to be couched in an “us vs. them” mentality. Those who seem to oppose drinking in the park seem pretty quick to characterize those in favour of it as “a bunch of hipsters” and their arguments seem to be that those who drink in the park are messy, loud, and disrespectful and are prone to pissing on the nearest tree. This is troubling for a number of reasons. First, with so many reasons to dislike hipsters (see: ironic racket sports, mustache wax), it seems silly to choose their enjoyment of sunshine and adult beverages as a reason to disparage them.

Second, and more importantly, it’s an unfair generalization of people who like to have a beer in the park.

I for one, was prompted to take action after learning that police might soon begin patrolling parks during my weekly Sunday softball games. I can assure you that there are few who might call me “hipster” (check out these dad jeans, dude), nor are the majority of the guys who opt to crack a post-game beer messy, loud, or disrespectful (though we may occasionally pee on a bush). I would argue that even downright respectable folks enjoy treating the park like their community’s backyard and throw back the odd can of cold beer there.

So too should it be said that those who oppose drinking in parks aren’t necessarily all squares or teetotalers looking to ruin someone’s good time. People have raised legitimate concerns about using the park with their kids in the presence of alcohol and also about late evening revelers disturbing the peace of their neighbourhood.

The problem with the extremes of both sides is that neither point of view seems to acknowledge that people are capable of exercising common sense and that people are capable of being responsible and respectful (no, really, we are!).

Granted, there are people who simply want to put an end to your good time. Those people exist. But to say they speak for the majority of those who support a crackdown on alcohol is unfair. People opposed to public drinking have legitimate concerns, and they should be heard.

Transversely, there are definitely douche bags who over indulge in city parks and are prone to obnoxious behaviour, but so too are there douche bags who drive like assholes, parent poorly, and handle and store firearms unsafely–and yet, the government has seen fit to entrust us with enough responsibility to obtain driver’s licenses, have children (unlicensed!), and even possess guns.

I know the analogy might seem extreme here, but the point I’m trying to make is this: if we’re trusted to behave responsibly and respectfully in other areas, why is there an assumption that we are incapable of behaving responsibly when it comes to our consumption of alcohol? Our legislation as it relates to alcohol is somehow entrenched in a weird prohibition-era state–presumably because that’s the last time people made enough stink to warrant a response from politicians. It’s my hope we might raise a stink once more (a respectful, responsible stink!) to get people to take a look at that legislation once more. If we start reducing those who fighting for change to the lowest common denominator (“Let’s get shittered in the park, bra!”) the conversation takes a negative turn for both sides.

There are a lot of issues with the province’s archaic liquor laws, but this issue–one that’s being raised for discussion–seems a great place to get that conversation started, so let’s do it in a respectful manner. Clearly, as evidenced by the support my petition has found, a lot of you agree (and not just the hipsters).

4 thoughts on “Drinking in the park is not a “hipster” cause

  1. Given the logic of your argument, assuming politicians were to take up the issue, what remedy would be available to deal with the concerns of noise, drunkenness and lewd, obnoxious behaviour…it is true people act like douchebags while driving but there are laws to deal with that…if we made drinking in parks legal, would we want to up the penalty for public drunkenness and how are we going to measure that…but my real question is …drinking in parks is illegal? I see it all the time in the three big parks near me and the only time there is trouble is when people are being douchebags and some one calls the cops…

    1. That’s the thing: there are already remedies for noise and drunkeness. Public intoxication is illegal, as is disturbing the peace and public urination. That’s part of the reason that it seems redundant or wasteful to me to have police issue fines for drinking. Drinking in and of itself shouldn’t offend anyone, it’s the obnoxious behaviour that results from over-indulgence–and that behaviour is already policed.

      And yes, drinking in parks is illegal. Provincial legislation makes public drinking illegal, and municpal bylaw 608-8 enforces that law: “While in a park, no person shall consume, serve or sell alcoholic beverages unless in designated areas, authorized by permit, and with the approval of the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario. “

  2. in response to the petition you started – which I support and signed – one point I’d like to bring up is that it would be a lot more effective if it was directed to the Provincial government, since isn’t liquor under provincial legislation? I don’t think the city of toronto is in the position to “formally allow” drinking in public spaces like parks. just a thought!

    1. And a good thought at that. The province is on my radar, but I’d like to have a conversation with the city first, at the very least.

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