Drinking cold beer at summer festivals is about as Canadian as sipping hot coffee at hockey rinks in winter.
But whereas people take their java anywhere in a rink, walking about with beer (in Ontario at least) has been restricted to certain areas. Call it the pilsner penalty box.
Not any more.
Earlier this summer, the Ontario provincial government introduced a number of changes to its liquor laws. It was a streamlining of existing legislation, fueled in part by a drive to capture more tourism. The changes go into effect in three stages – June 1, 2011, August 2, 2011 and July 1, 2012.
Among other things:
Festival patrons (of legal age) can now roam freely throughout the grounds, beer in handstreet festivals can allow people to leave their bar or restaurant with a drink in hand, providing specified conditions are met to ensure public safetyholders of Special Occasion Permits (SOP) can serve until 2am and start as early as 11am on Sundays.
So what do these changes mean for festival organizers when it comes to on-site security?
They should take the following steps to take to help ensure a fun and safe festival for all involved:
Broaden the security plan – More room for patrons to roam with beer means organizers need to ensure that a broader range of areas within the festival remain safe from behaviors, such as fighting and petty theft, which often accompany alcohol consumption in public. Plus there may be added opportunities for under-aged festival-goers to pick up beers temporarily left on tables. All this calls for a bigger security plan.
In many cases, this will require additional on-site security personnel to help monitor the expanded areas. Mobile CCTV surveillance, in complement to those added personnel, can be of great assistance in such circumstances.
Meet early and often with police – A broader scope calls for closer consultation with local police and EMS officials. They can provide organizers with key guidance on what the new changes mean (and don’t mean) for events. As well, organizers now have to give 30 days notice for events under 5,000 people (a change from 21 days), and 60 days for events with 5,000 or more people.
Halton Police, for example, work with a range of festival organizers on events, such as the Burlington Rib Festival and the Courage Polar Bear Dip in Oakville. It’s a similar story with police forces across the province (and Canada, for that matter).
Better training for volunteers and staff – Volunteers are the lifeblood of most festivals, with many coming back every year to help out. But in light of these recent changes, make sure all volunteers know all the new rules, especially those people selling alcohol tickets and controlling access points. Plus, sending key volunteers and staff on responsible alcohol serving courses such as Smart Serve is a good idea in most cases. Ontario’s recent liquor law changes are meant to expand the overall festival experience in many ways. Taking some key security steps will help event organizers do that wisely now that the pilsner penalty box is gone.