Rock the Shores festival will test laxer liquor laws

The Rock the Shores festival beginning today will be the capital region’s biggest test to date of B.C.’s new liquor laws, which did away with fenced beer gardens.

“There’s a lot of people watching this event to see how we do, how it functions, and how the crowd accepts the responsibility,” said Nick Blasko, Rock the Shores’ co-producer. “But it’s not just about us. We are also putting a lot of responsibility in the hands of our patrons to choose wisely.”

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Under the new rules, which took effect in April, fenced beer gardens are no longer required at B.C. festivals that serve alcohol.

Blasko said Rock the Shores organizers worked closely with the site security provider and West Shore RCMP to ensure that they met or exceeded the legal requirements — such as guard-to-patron ratios, signs and identification protocols — of their licence.

“It’s a big responsibility, obviously. There are a lot of things we have to do differently from years prior,” Blasko said.

“The onus on keeping alcohol out of minors’ hands falls on us, and it’s a big one.”

Systems are in place to monitor the situation on the weekend, he said. “We came up with a plan that everyone felt good about.”

Up to 30,000 people are expected to attend the three-day festival on the fields at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre.

The Vancouver Island Cultural Festival, held June 14 at St. Ann’s Academy, was among the first in the region to make use of the new rules. Organizers said no liquor infractions or incidents were reported at the event, which was attended by 2,000 people.

Liquor licences are approved on a case-by-case basis and only after officials and regional police sign off on the licence.

West Shore RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Kathy Rochlitz said Mounties and auxiliary constables will be patrolling in and around the festival grounds looking for alcohol and drug-use infractions.

She said most of the issues last year related to “open alcohol outside the venue as [people are] transiting into the venue … as well as overconsumption of alcohol and some cases of drug seizures.”

Traffic officers from the Integrated Road Safety Unit and South Island traffic services will conduct roadblocks to check for drunk drivers. Rochlitz said festival-goers have been smart in the past about the rules of the road and about taking public transit.

“Overall, it’s a well-run event and we’ve had no major issues in the last two years,” Rochlitz said.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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