CAVENDISH, P.E.I. - It’s all about the safety.
That’s the reasoning behind a request to make this year’s Cavendish Beach Music Festival a fully-licensed venue while also extending the hours from 11 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.
Brodie O’Keefe, director of operation for Whitecap Entertainment, gave a presentation to a small group of residents of the resort municipality on Tuesday night where he said removing about 1,200 feet of fencing separating the licensed and unlicensed areas would create a safer atmosphere and reduce binge drinking by festival-goers.
“People will buy (the maximum) four drinks right now, and they’ll drink them as quick as they can because it will get hot,” said O’Keefe. “They want to go see their friends on the unlicensed side. By removing that fence, people will get one or two beers and walk around the site to go see their friends knowing that they’ll have various other parts in the site to get a drink if they want another beer.”
O’Keefe pointed to a number of other benefits, including removing crowd “crush points” where large numbers of people gather, improving access for first responders and reducing “onsite incidents”.
“The licensed area brings all the people who have been drinking into one crowd point,” said O’Keefe. “By spreading them out across the site… people who might be having a few too many drinks are spread out instead of standing next to each other. If we see people standing next to each other who have had to much to drink and they bump into each other, things can escalate pretty quick.”
The festival site was previously fully licensed during a Rod Stewart concert in 2015 and an Alan Doyle show in 2016.
One resident said if the change is approved, organizers will need good supervision around underage drinking.
O’Keefe said the festival would keep its zero tolerance policy for anyone passing alcohol to a minor. The change would also involve ID tents where concert-goers older than 19 would have to go and receive a special bracelet before purchasing alcohol.
There would also be a sectioned off dry area, which would fit upwards of 90 people and could later be expanded if there was overwhelming demand.
Richard Blacquiere, an inspector with the Liquor Control Commission, said that about 85 per cent of the site is currently licensed.
Provincial Fire Marshal Dave Rossiter said the reason he would support the change is it would get ride of a “choke point” where the crowd gathers in front of the licensed area.
O’Keefe said the other request, to extend hours until 11:15 p.m., would see a smaller act take the stage following the headliner to help stagger the crowds who are leaving and reduce traffic congestion.
Alan Aitken, a traffic operations engineer with the department of transportation, said any extension to hours would see a benefit of spreading out traffic on the road.
Public feedback on the requests, which can be provided until Monday, will be taken into consideration by the municipality’s planning board. The board will then make a recommendation on whether council should support or deny the request.
From there, the request will go to the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission.