Nearly $1M needed for Vancouver 2024 Alcohol on Beaches program: report

A City of Vancouver staff report is recommending that the city increase its operational and enforcement needs for its ‘booze on the beaches’ pilot.

In December 2022, a pilot project for alcohol at select beaches in Vancouver was implemented.

The Vancouver Park Board ultimately approved sites and the program on April 24, 2023.

The pilot program was launched at seven public beaches, where alcohol could be consumed from June 1 to Sept. 4.

Also, the park board approved alcohol in parks on April 24 for 48 park sites across the city.

Jericho Beach, John Hendry, Kitsilano Beach, Locarno Beach, New Brighton, Spanish Banks and Stanley Park Second Beach were chosen for the pilot project.

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During the pilot, park board staff compiled and analyzed data from staff surveys, public engagement, public polls and working groups regarding the program.

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One thing staff noticed in the data was that violent incidents at two of the beaches that were chosen increased dramatically.

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The reported number of violent incidents tripled at Kitsilano Beach, from four incidents in 2018 to 12 in 2023, and at English Bay, from six in 2018 to 28 in 2023.

Staff acknowledged that while violent incidents have increased overall in the entire city, the statistics show a much sharper rise at those beaches.

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“This implies that while there are not more calls for service to English Bay and 3rd Beach than before the pandemic, more of those incidents are turning violent,” city staff said in the report.

“We cannot determine if alcohol consumption was the cause of this increase or if it merely reflects the higher number of people visiting beaches through the pandemic, however, the jump in the number of violent incidents cannot be ignored at these two beaches.”

Sixty park board staff from various departments were surveyed on how alcohol on beaches affected their work. Those most affected, according to the survey, were park rangers and lifeguards.

Park rangers reported their main issues revolved around the inability to enforce against unruly behaviour and the asking of valid IDs. Lifeguards said there was increased risk with the alcohol program as there were more inebriated swimmers in the water.

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Given the concerns raised in the pilot project from the summer of 2023, city staff are recommending a number of changes for the 2024 program.

“While some of the elements required to continue Alcohol on Beaches in 2024 can be addressed with existing resources, additional funding will be required to safely implement the program to the satisfaction of all departments and partners,” the report said.

“Initial costs for park board staff and equipment for 2024 would be $480,300.

“Funding for VPD support in the amount of $450,000 is also required and would be included in the request to Council for additional funding.”

City staff said without additional funding the pilot cannot be implemented.

The $930,300 in one-time funding in 2024 will be managed from within the city’s 2024 approved operating budget.

More data will be collected in the 2024 program in the event a permanent program is implemented.

The report is set to go before city council on May 7.

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