Festivals without alcohol will lead to people sneaking drink in, says Cork venue owner

Festivals without alcohol will lead to people sneaking drink in, says Cork venue owner

Joe Kelly. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE owner of a well-known Cork music venue has said that the Government's discussions with campaigners for the music industry about the possibility of holding festivals with a ban on the sale of alcohol is “a bit Irish”.

Minister for Arts Catherine Martin and Minister for Health Stehen Donnelly met with arts campaigners earlier this week to consider ways in which events can be further reopened within the Covid-19 guidelines, including a discussion on whether a ban on alcohol could facilitate them being held.

Current Covid-19 measures mean 50 people are allowed indoors in the likes of museums, cinemas, theatres and art galleries, while all other events have a six-person limit.

All of the summer’s major live gigs have been cancelled as a result of the virus, including the Live at the Drive-In series of concerts which were set for the Cork Showgrounds.

Joe Kelly of The Kino in the city centre, which has been host to over 25 gigs in its six weeks since reopening and has welcomed through its doors an average of 900 people over those six weeks, said that it is “a bit Irish to try to make alcohol the problem”.

Mr Kelly said that he has been serving alcohol to people attending gigs at the venue through means of table service where customers are not permitted to leave their table other than to use the toilet.

He said that in those six weeks of the venue holding around 40 people per gig, that he has only had three “very minor incidents”.

The Kino on Washington street, Cork.
The Kino on Washington street, Cork.

“The reason for that is that most people are good and decent and most people go out and have a drink and there’s zero problems.” Mr Kelly said that banning alcohol entirely would lead to people pre drinking ahead of a festival or gig which would lead to more problems for event promoters.

“Opening gigs up without alcohol sounds to me like teenage discos. So what happens at a teenage disco? They all go and drink the bejesus out of it before they go in the door and turn up with 7Up bottles full of something that isn’t 7Up.

“Of course people are going to take alcohol before they come in or sneak alcohol in or drink a load of alcohol before they come to the event and then the promoters that are running the event have drunk people on their premises who could fall and sue the venue and the venue hasn't even sold them a drop of drink and that's not right,” he said.

Mr Kelly said that although certain types of festivals with “maybe up to around 1,000 people” have the possibility of being able to operate safely, that stand up festivals such as Electric Picnic “wouldn’t work”.

DJ and radio presenter with RedFM, Colm O’Sullivan who has been DJ, MC and host to some larger events Leeside said that bringing festivals and concerts back with an alcohol ban would be “better than nothing” at a time when the events industry has been “decimated by the Covid restrictions”.

REDFM's Colm O'Sullivan and Stevie G at the Cork Pride Parade .
REDFM's Colm O'Sullivan and Stevie G at the Cork Pride Parade .

The last DJ set that Colm performed was in mid-March, one day before pubs were shut and he found himself without his regular gigging jobs.

He said that the Government needs to agree to “get some events going and some level of crowds attending them safely sooner rather than later”.

“I think for both the people working within the industry and the public who love attending concerts it needs to happen and if that means trialling with smaller crowds or without alcohol being served for a while then it's worth a shot,” he said.

He wondered, however, if the same appetite to attend events under such circumstances would exist and echoed Mr Kelly’s concerns surrounding the consumption of alcohol prior to the event.

“I'd very rarely drink at an event as I'd be either working at it or driving to and from it but for some people the drink is a major part of it and probably one of the key reasons they go in the first place.

“Realistically, similarly to the argument with the pubs versus house parties, you will more than likely end up with people drinking to excess before the event or smuggling in their own which ultimately could cause more problems than serving drinks in a controlled environment with a bar at the event,” he said.

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