There’s a shift to whole-site licensing at festivals
Designated areas for consuming alcohol are common at events and festivals across Canada. Yet the notion of caging people up in a confined area such as a beer garden and not letting them out until they have consumed as much as they can is outdated and encourages binge drinking, i.e., the accelerated and over-consumption of alcohol.
This summer, some larger festivals in Alberta implemented whole site licensing — a concept I fully support. It allows people to drink at their own pace while visiting food stands and enjoying the entertainment with family and friends, and creates an environment where the focus is not alcohol consumption.
The shift to whole site licensing is progressive. The government, event organizers and the media must also be progressive in their messaging about the changes.
Every news story I have seen that covered the changes missed the point with headlines such as “summer festivals make alcohol more accessible.” The focus of the message should be on creating a culture of responsible consumption.
Whole site licensing reduces alcohol related issues. Since British Columbia relaxed its beer and wine garden fencing requirements in 2015, “whole-site licensing has made events more family-friendly, with fewer people being noticeably intoxicated,” according to a government spokesperson.
In other parts of the world, you can be in a city’s main square and have a glass of wine or walk around at a food festival with a beer. Anarchy does not ensue because culturally, drinking isn’t a big deal.
So let’s encourage people to drink better, not more. Event organizers need to take more responsibility for the quality (or lack thereof) of alcoholic beverages being served. And our laws should reflect current societal norms instead of puritanical, prohibition-era ideals.