A beer garden at the BC Seniors Games has become a pilot project, as Nelson city council mulls over its position on selling alcohol in parks.
The beer garden will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Lakeside Park during the two-day dragonboating portion of August’s seniors games, but would only be open to athletes and volunteers, not the general public. In her request to council, dragonboat sport chair and Kootenay Rhythm Dragon paddler Mary Walters said beer gardens are the norm at dragonboat races, and promote networking and socializing among paddlers.
Though Nelson police and other city departments have signed off on the plan, a few councillors worried about the precedent allowing the beer garden would set.
Councillor Donna Macdonald said agreeing to one beer garden would lead to more requests, and called for policy to be set on the issue.
“I agree camaraderie, socializing and networking are important,” she added, “but I don’t think they need to be done over beer. Iced tea would be fine.”
Councillor Robin Cherbo — who voted against the garden — had stronger objections.
“In the old days when they had beer gardens in Lakeside Park it wasn’t pretty,” he said. “I know the police say it’s not a problem, but to me it’s an invitation to drink and drive, unless they have some kind of shuttle service.”
City manager Kevin Cormack told council the seniors games coordinators are planning on providing transit to move athletes from site to site, which might alleviate some of Cherbo’s concerns, and says the city will have more conversations with the seniors games team about who would pay for any costs the beer garden might bring, such as extra cleanup or policing in the park.
Walters also told council the beer tents at dragonboat races aren’t known for getting out of hand.
“Dragonboaters aren’t rowdies,” she said.
While she supported Macdonald’s call for policy, councillor Deb Kozak also said she wasn’t worried about this particular beer garden causing problems.
“I’d like to remind council this is the BC Seniors Games,” she said.
Council will decide what kind of policy it would like to have on beer gardens at a future committee of the whole meeting.