Editorial: Is removing beer garden fencing realistic?

Beer gardens at festivals and special events may soon be a thing of the past...

Beer gardens at festivals and special events may soon be a thing of the past. Thanks to the most recent review of the B.C. Liquor Policy, the barriers surrounding beer gardens are coming down – literally and figuratively. And Fernie’s own Wapiti Music Festival is looking to capitalize on the change.

The brains behind Wapiti are working hard with the liquor licensing board to make sure the fourth annual music festival is the first year that sees patrons roaming free throughout Annex Park with a tasty alcoholic beverage in hand.

On the one hand, it seems like a brilliant idea. Festival goers will be able to get up close and personal with the bands without being restricted to a cordoned-off beer garden. Parents with kids in tow can enjoy a beer or cooler and remain with their family.

But weren’t beer gardens created for a reason to begin with? The new rules may be just as much of a disadvantage for families as they are an advantage. Wapiti prides itself on being a place where kids, adults, and seniors can all enjoy a day in the sun (fingers crossed!) enjoying fresh, Canadian, indie music. And while most of us feel like we’re pretty capable of indulging in a few adult beverages and maintaining our manners (not to mention our dignity), that’s not always the case.

What about the rowdy guy who has one too many and decides to take his shirt off? Or the girl who after a few drinks is talking loudly to her friends using foul and inappropriate language? Removing the beer garden would also make it easy for those legally purchasing alcoholic beverages to share them with minors. Is that consistent with the family friendly environment Wapiti has cultivated over the years?

While it doesn’t seem fair to subject young families to potentially lewd behaviour, it also doesn’t seem fair to expect everyone to be on their best behaviour. Festival goers have every right to have a few drinks and let loose in a party atmosphere – something that’s much easier to control within the confines of a beer garden.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see festival goers enjoying all aspects of Wapiti with a drink in hand – myself included – I’m just not sure it’s realistic.

Thankfully, there will be security working the event ensuring that things don’t get too out of hand. And Fernie council has endorsed Wapiti’s plan to say goodbye to the beer gardens, so as long as the liquor licensing board gives the ok, it looks like a sure thing. Here’s hoping it all works out for the best and Wapiti remains a fun festival for all ages.