Jump to content
Jambands.ca

another Ottawa Bluesfest article


Cosmic ChrisC
 Share

Recommended Posts

Councillors cry 'blackmail' over Bluesfest

Committee OKs closing Laurier during festival

Carly Weeks and Lynn Saxberg

The Ottawa Citizen

June 16, 2005

Councillors accused Bluesfest organizers yesterday of "blackmailing" the city with their demands for a prolonged road closing in the downtown to accommodate the festival.

"This is blackmail. That's very clear," Councillor Clive Doucet said during a meeting of the transportation committee as it considered the festival's request to close Laurier Avenue, from Elgin Street to the east side of the canal, for 11 days starting July 7. "I think it isn't fair, but I don't think we have any choice."

The councillor's remarks, echoed by other committee members, were directed mainly at Bluesfest executive director Mark Monahan. However, despite councillors' complaints, the committee voted to close the street so the festival's main stage Festival Plaza site can be expanded. With less than a month before the festival begins, most councillors said they had no choice but to agree to the closing.

Several councillors anticipate traffic and other problems if the street is closed. They were angry and frustrated that Mr. Monahan waited until the last minute to attempt to change the venue and then ask for the lengthy closing.

"They take us for granted. They wait until the last minute," said Councillor Eli El-Chantiry.

"I agree that this is last-minute blackmail," said Councillor Diane Holmes, who represents the area where Bluesfest is held.

But Mr. Monahan said Ottawa's biggest festival requires more space this year because of a new Ontario liquor licence requirement that calls for separate licensed and unlicensed areas at events that attract more than 5,000 people.

As well, Bluesfest, which has been attracting crowds of 20,000 or more each day, is expecting this year's event to be the most successful in the festival's 12-year history. Advance sales are up about 30 per cent from last year, Mr. Monahan said, as fans buy tickets to concerts by Black Eyed Peas, Kid Rock, Simple Plan and ZZ Top.

"We've been negotiating with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, and what they're asking for is basically a designated place where people can drink and a place where people cannot, which presents a problem in the sense that we can't predict how many people want to be in the licensed area and how many people want to be in the unlicensed area," Mr. Monahan said.

He said there is also the fact that "we don't just have one big night anymore. Our passports are selling; our day tickets are selling. We didn't anticipate sales this year to increase that dramatically," he said.

Mr. Monahan met with Mayor Bob Chiarelli earlier this week to discuss the possibility of a last-minute move to a new location at Vincent Massey Park near Hog's Back. The festival first considered the spacious park along the Rideau River three years ago when it moved out of LeBreton Flats. The mayor preferred to discuss options for expanding the Festival Plaza site, and suggested the street closing, Mr. Monahan said.

By closing the street for the duration of the festival, Bluesfest's main stage and backstage area would be set up on the street, facing southeast, to create a concert bowl that encompasses Festival Plaza and Laurier Avenue, up to, and including the bridge. Festival Plaza would be the licensed area; the unlicensed area would be on Laurier Avenue.

"It doesn't necessarily mean we will sell a lot more tickets, but it gives us space to accommodate the regulations that we're faced with," Mr. Monahan said.

Before the decision is final, it has to be approved by council next week. The city also has to meet with Ministry of Transportation officials to get the proper signs in place to warn people of the traffic detours.

Mr. Monahan said the decision is a huge step forward for the city. The festival's research shows Bluesfest generates $10 million in economic benefits to Ottawa.

"This decision puts us in a different league," he said. "It's going to allow us to not only put on a world-class event, but also showcase Ottawa and take a step towards what Montreal is doing with their jazz festival. It gives Ottawa the potential for a signature event."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2005

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But Mr. Monahan said Ottawa's biggest festival requires more space this year because of a new Ontario liquor licence requirement that calls for separate licensed and unlicensed areas at events that attract more than 5,000 people.

By closing the street for the duration of the festival, Bluesfest's main stage and backstage area would be set up on the street, facing southeast, to create a concert bowl that encompasses Festival Plaza and Laurier Avenue, up to, and including the bridge. Festival Plaza would be the licensed area; the unlicensed area would be on Laurier Avenue.

Does this mean alcohol will only be allowed to be consumed in one area? So if you want to get up close, no drinks allowed?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kudos to the Bluesfest organizers and our mayor for getting the street closed, allowing more space for the people.

I'd say the city councillors crying blackmail are just grandstanding - especially Jan Harder, who was not mentioned in the article. I saw her on the TV news last night. What a &*&%^.

I heard Mark Monahan on the CBC radio this morning. The drinking and non-drinking sections will be separated by a fence running along the sidewalk of Laurier St. The stage will be partially on Laurier St. I expect drinkers and non-drinkers alike will be able to get close to the stage.

Oh, and Ollie - love your lawnchairs comment!

Edited by Guest
correct error
Link to comment
Share on other sites

They could create a helluva lotta more space by putting a limit on the amount of lawchairs allowed into the venue, or banning them outright

Yes.

I'm having trouble visualizing a stage theat spans the plaza and Laurier, but I guess it'll be rearing its head fairly soon so we'll see what they're talking about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...