Boonstock organizers dispute liquor board claims

Boonstock Festival promoter Colin Kobza and director of operations for the festival Barb Haynes spoke to the media Wednesday morning at the site of the upcoming event. Emotions ran high as festival reps fended off a number off questions about the circumstances around the festival and why they had not returned calls to clarify details. - Mark Brett/Western News
Boonstock Festival promoter Colin Kobza and director of operations for the festival Barb Haynes spoke to the media Wednesday morning at the site of the upcoming event. Emotions ran high as festival reps fended off a number off questions about the circumstances around the festival and why they had not returned calls to clarify details.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Boonstock gets underway Friday, and its going to be a dry event, at least in the concert areas. There are still lots of bands coming. It’s going to be a sunny weekend. There are a lot of guests coming and they are sure to have a good time.

That’s about all that is certain about the three-day music and arts festival, as more and more information comes to light about why the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch denied the festival a liquor licence, shedding light on problems with the process.

Boonstock organizers spoke out Wednesday about LCLB claims they still haven’t seen signed contracts for a variety of necessary elements, including security services.

“I can tell you we were never asked by the Liquor Branch to supply those items. We had them, but they never asked,” said Barb Haynes, director of operations for Boonstock.

Haynes’ comment is in stark contrast to the LCLB letter denying the licence, which has since been leaked to the media and confirmed as legitimate by Mark Ziebarth, chair of the Boonstock Arts and Entertainment board, and to whom the letter was addressed.

In it, acting deputy general manager Ray Tetzel states there has been “repeated  verbal and written requests” for a signed and dated contract with the security provider.

He also writes that LCLB have worked with Boonstock in an unprecedented manner and that the branch has devoted significantly more support and resources than typical for an event of this size.

According to Tetzel, when 24/7 Security was engaged after the withdrawal of International Crowd Management on June 27, not only was no signed contract received by the LCLB, but their own investigation showed that the Aldergrove company did not possess a valid security industry business licence at the time.

That has been corrected, but it highlights organizational problems with Boonstock Productions, which Ziebarth attributes to the short time frame since last fall to put together the event.

“The Boonstock production team was responsible for creating all of the paperwork, documents, applications, etc. and the society came in a year later than they should have, and so did Boonstock, so everyone was running as fast as they could to figure out how to give the bureaucracy what they demanded,” said Ziebarth.

“We gave them volumes of information all along the way. But it was not perfect. None of it was perfect. It was fast, it was missing this, it was missing that.”

See BOONSTOCK on page 4

Boonstock organizers and supporters at the Wednesday conference, however, attributed the problems to the festival being subjected to a higher level of scrutiny by the LCLB and other government organizations than similar events.

“The event is now going forward as a dry event, and there is opportunity for this event to move forward in subsequent years, but there must be better partnership than we currently experience,” said Haynes, who invited owners of the land the festival is taking place on at the Penticton Indian Band to address the media.

Harmony Kruger-Pickett blamed the City of Penticton for not being supportive, not standing behind the festival as a partner and saying they support the event. Making use of the land would help support her entire family, she said, adding she feels sorry for Boonstock owner and president Colin Kobza and the hurdles the festival has had to go through.

“Are we always going to have to fight and jump through hoops to take care of ourselves, to be self sufficient?” she said.

Pierre Kruger said the didn’t blame the city but rather the head of the LCLB, suggesting there was deliberate opposition and back room meetings.

““One guy says it won’t happen,” said Kruger. “He’s doing whatever it takes. He’s biased."

Douglas Scott, general manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch took a direct approach Tuesday, issuing an open letter to the people of Penticton to explain how the LCLB decision to deny Boonstock’s licence application was made.

In that letter, Scott, noted that the LCLB concerns are ongoing, stating the RCMP still does not have an agreement with Boonstock to cover the costs of 40 officers detailed to the festival.

“We have been in touch with the RCMP and I am confident they have put in place the appropriate measures to protect public safety at Boonstock despite the fact that, at the time of writing this letter, they still do not have an agreement in place with organizers to cover the policing costs at the festival, as is normally required,” wrote Scott.

Scott rejected the idea that giving Boonstock a liquor licence would have resulted in a safer event than otherwise.

“I can confidently say that approving a liquor licence would not have improved the level of public safety at Boonstock as has been suggested,” wrote Scott.

LCLB concerns, he wrote, include unclear evacuation routes and a lack of proof of signed contracts for security, emergency first responders, drinkable water, waste and tents.The LCLB’s primary concern is for festival goers, Scott wrote, who they want to have a safe and fun weekend.

“To be clear, a rejection of a liquor application or the absence of a supplemental policing agreement does not mean that the festival organizers are absolved of the responsibility to ensure an appropriate level of security at their event,” wrote Scott.

“The LCLB, the taxpayer paid bureaucrats are being very very judicious in what they release to the public and it is potentially harmful,” said Ziebarth. “Every bureaucrat in this town needs to look at themselves and say did we support this guy in bringing something new to town, or did we make it more difficult for them.”

Ziebarth, who says he will be volunteering at the festival regardless said the focus now should be on making sure this year’s festival goes over well, and planning ahead for next year to make the process move forward more smoothly.


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