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Council considers village beer garden for WSSF

Local bars to participate in three-hour concert event

Council is hesitant to give its blessing to a village beer garden during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival until they have more information.

At Monday's council meeting, when presented with the plans for a three-hour beer garden during an outdoor concert on Saturday, April 9, council voted to hold off on a decision for one week to get some answers to their questions.

Their concerns about the proposal were varied, from the potential problems of mixing drinking concert-goers with the all ages public to the impacts of the event on the neighbouring private sector hotels and bars.

The beer garden, which will be able to hold 4,000 people, would be tucked on one side of Skiers’ Plaza, stretching back to the Whistler Resort Hotel, while the area in front of the mountains and close to the stage would be reserved for an all ages general public.

The big name act for the evening event has yet to be confirmed.

Sue Eckersley, director of events for W1, which produces the WSSF, tried to ease Councillor Caroline Lamont's concerns about drinkers mixing with the general public including families and kids. She said W1 would use various ways to mitigate those potential problems.

There will be security at the doors and a two drink maximum purchase at one time. She also said the three-hour timeframe, from 7-10 p.m., only allows a very short period of alcohol consumption.

Councillor Gordon McKeever expressed concerns about the impacts to the local hotels in the area and asked if they had been canvassed for their support.

Eckersley explained that they had not, simply because the event is taking place in the same timeframe as the traditional Big Air contest which draws thousands to the village during the WSSF. The Big Air won't be happening this year.

Without feedback from the private sector, however, McKeever was reticent to make a decision.

"I feel we’re operating with a dearth of information," he said.

The beer garden/Saturday night concert is the first time the WSSF is moving to a ticketed event during their traditional free outdoor concert series.

"It's a bit of an experiment to see whether it works on not," explained Eckersley.

The idea behind the ticket sales is not to make a profit but rather to help bring in a big name act. Eckersley said the music portion of the WSSF is a huge draw for people coming to the resort. The beer garden will help enhance their experience at the concert.

She also said the WSSF has reached the ceiling in what corporate Canada is willing to sponsor for the event. Selling tickets is an alternative revenue source, which could in turn grow the business.

Councillor Ken Melamed wasn't pleased to see the WSSF lose the free Big Air contest and move to a ticketed concert. His condition for letting the beer garden move ahead was to ensure 50 per cent of the beer sales was donated to charity. W1 will investigate the possibility of giving some of the profits to charity.

Eckersley said the beer garden would include five or six local bars and, if it becomes a permanent event, those bars will rotate each year to allow for equal participation.

Council will make a decision on the WSSF beer garden at a special council meeting on Monday, March 14 in council chambers.