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Comox Valley music festival planning 'baby steps' with new liquor legislation

A relaxing of liquor laws might allow free-range drinking at music festivals in B.C., but it won't prompt significant changes at Vancouver Island MusicFest.

In fact, the beer garden at the annual gathering in Courtenay might remain as is, says executive producer Doug Cox.

Liquor regulations demand a certain number of security guards per patron in the beer garden, which accounts for a large part of the festival's income.

"The actual costs of security might stop us from doing anything," Cox said. "That would outweigh the value of having a wide-open beer garden."

Besides music festivals, liquor reforms apply to stadiums, hotels and eventual sales in grocery stores.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton announced Friday that government is accepting all 73 recommendations from Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap, who headed a committee researching the issue. Among other things, new rules eliminate the requirement for beer garden fencing, licensing the entire site via a simpler application.

"We're going to take baby steps with it, no matter what they regulate," Cox said. "The thing that's most important to us is that we continue to have people feel safe at our festival with their families. That's the first consideration.

"We're going to be very cautious," he added. "We're not necessarily going to change anything. That said, I think it's a wonderful, modern, forward-thinking thing they're doing."

At festivals throughout Europe and Canada, Cox says audiences are accustomed to free-range drinking.

"The ones that I've been to, you don't see drunk people walking around; it's not a problem," he said. "But we've created our own culture with our festival, and we have to be very, very careful that we continue without scaring anyone or creating extra problems or extra expense for the event itself."

In sports stadiums, hard liquor sales will no longer be restricted to premium seating and private boxes.

Certain recommendations such as liquor sales in grocery stores will take time to implement. Anton said legislation is needed for some changes.

With a file from Black Press.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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