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Fenceless Davie Street party unlikely for 2014 Pride

Despite new rules, VPS prez says it’s too late to resubmit plans for this year’s party

Stefan Oeser and Skeeter Stanbak enjoy the 2013 Davie Street party, despite the fences. Credit: Jon Haywood

To much fanfare, BC’s attorney general announced the next stage of the province’s liberalized liquor rules on April 26, saying attendees will now be able to walk freely — beer in hand — around festival grounds without having to stay inside a fenced-in beer garden.

“Gone are the days of cordoned-off beer gardens at family-friendly festivals in BC,” Attorney General Suzanne Anton declared in a release. “Today’s changes are the first of many to be implemented from the Liquor Policy Review — one of the BC government’s most successful public engagements.”

But if you are expecting to walk with ease from bar to street party on Davie Street during this summer’s Pride celebrations — even without a beer — think again.

“For 2014 really, the train has already left the station,” says Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) president Tim Richards. “We submitted plans for all of our events back in February, so to reverse-engineer that at this point would be difficult.”

The VPS has received a significant amount of feedback on its Friday night pre-Pride street party, Richards says. Many Pride-goers have complained about the wall of fencing that cuts off the street party from the bars and restaurants in the Davie Village.

BC’s new liquor regulations initially offered a glimmer of hope that the Davie Street party fencing could come down.

But, it turns out, beer gardens can be fence-free only if the event in which they’re housed has controlled entry and exit points.

“Liquor is still a controlled substance, so you still have to have it in a controlled area, which means you have to have some type of barrier,” Richards says.

The same controlled-entry regulations will affect the VPS’s Sunset Beach festival, which runs alongside the end of the Pride parade route.

Richards says he’s aware of the new laws that mean the festival’s beer garden will no longer have to be fenced in. “Instead, you have to fence in a larger area, which to us would be a bigger cost,” he explains.

Still, he says, the VPS will consider how it serves alcohol for its 2015 events, including the possibility of fencing in a much larger area at the Sunset Beach festival, rather than caging only a small beer-garden area.

When reached for comment on the disconnect between the promise of fenceless beer gardens and the reality that many festivals will not take advantage of the new rules, the Ministry of the Attorney General provided a backgrounder citing the need to limit access to alcohol by minors.

The backgrounder also said each application is subject to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, which approves licences on a case-by-case basis.

Richards says the VPS might also consider a different “fenceless” approach to the Davie Street party in 2015, where bars and restaurants on Davie Street expand their patios into the street to allow for outdoor liquor sales on their premises during the event.