While the City of Penticton has approved a pilot project to allow alcohol in certain outdoor spaces, some are concerned about the possible consequences of this decision.
The one-month pilot project, which began June 3, has had some applauding the decision while others have voiced their concerns and opposition.
Some of the naysayers have referenced the 1991 riot, following an MC Hammer concert during the Peach Festival.
The giant peach concession stand was rolled into Okanagan Lake by the rioters. By morning, windows and lights in downtown Penticton had been smashed.
The riot received international news coverage, and today it remains a black mark on Penticton’s history.
For several years afterward, there was a sense of uneasiness around large public gatherings, the Peach Festival and long weekends in Penticton.
And even today, that riot is sometimes used as an argument against allowing alcohol in public spaces.
This is not fair. There are multiple factors at play when a riot occurs.
More importantly, the city of Penticton is not the same as it was in 1991, and the attitudes around alcohol have changed significantly over the past three decades.
In 1991, Penticton had night clubs, but no craft breweries. The wine industry was still in its infancy in the South Okanagan.
Today, the night clubs are gone, but Penticton has a thriving craft brewery culture. Some of these are family-friendly spaces, where parents will bring their young children.
Penticton also holds the Fest of Ale, a celebration of craft beer. This event has been in place for the past 25 years.
And the wineries in the South Okanagan and Similkameen play a significant role in tourism and in the local economy.
Furthermore, Penticton has not had another incident anything like the 1991 riot.
Times have changed.
Allowing alcohol consumption in some public spaces is a significant change from past policies, and it is a change that will have some people feeling uneasy.
This issue deserves to be discussed and considered carefully.
But the discussion should be based on what is happening today, not on a horrible mistake made nearly 30 years ago.
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