Shock as plug is pulled on Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest organiser Neil Loy � Edward Byrne Photography INBL31-263EB
Oktoberfest organiser Neil Loy � Edward Byrne Photography INBL31-263EB

The Oktoberfest beer festival due to be held next month has been cancelled, in an apparent licensing wrangle.

The three-day festival, which has never before been staged in Banbridge, was due to be staged in Solitude Park between October 3-5.

The PSNI told the Leader that the applicant behind Oktoberfest “withdrew their licensing application”. Without a licence granted, the event cannot proceed.

In a statement to the Leader Oktoberfest organiser Noel Loy said: “The fact that Oktoberfest Banbridge 2013 has been cancelled, is an upsetting and frustrating development to say the least, not just on a personal level but on a local level.

“The whole team involved want to stress that it was not in any way what we wanted at such a final stage nearing the completion of the event. The time, effort and money spent towards preparation of a new and exciting era within my town of Banbridge have gone pretty much to waste.

“We were working closely with the council from the beginning and have had nothing but a positive experience. We had complied with their requests at all stages of progression. Therefore we achieved completion of the majority of tasks in place, from an extensive and exciting list ready for Oktoberfest, right down to the qualified security staff, imported beer and continental foods to mention only few things.

“The problems started arising at the start of September when we were told by the PSNI they would be objecting to the granting of the occasional alcohol license and the Entertainment license, even though we had been through months and months of council meetings, and had informed PSNI of our event as early as the start of the summer, not to mention that it was front page local news and trending within local social media sites since early July.

“We had done the majority of things asked of us, with the exception of a few things that cannot be expected until the event site had been set-up in the week leading up to the event. The PSNI objections were on a legal technicality regarding the Occasional license that could have been overcome, and have been overcome in previous events of a similar nature.

“These were obstacles and objections that when presented to us at such a late stage, meant we were left in a position that time was unfortunately no longer an option. It is very frustrating to know also that even if we had obtained the license granted for the legal sale of alcohol earlier than planned, the application for our entertainment license was going to be challenged at a belated stage by the PSNI.

“This objection was to take place at a council meeting scheduled for Monday, September 23. (seven days before the set-up was due to start). The PSNI have a very difficult and highly demanding job, of this we are all aware. We will be working closely with them on future plans from as early as possible.

“We had complied with all requirements regarding the entertainment license, and were under the impression, via verbal confirmation on multiple occasions that the council would be granting it to us.

“I want to stress that we are aware of the social media and public outcry for an event of this nature in OUR town, hence our adamance in obtaining allowance for the event to go ahead at early council meetings. Now this disappointment has been forced on all residents, councillors and local businesses that were supporting the occasion.

“Every business owner, publican and resident that I have had the pleasure to chat to over the months leading up to the event were excited to see the town take on a new lease of life and were looking forward to the much anticipated increase in local trade in the quiet weeks leading up to Christmas. This development has achieved the opposite.

“We are all now left in a position of having to go to other local areas for the events and bring trade away from Banbridge Town. Why should this be the case? It only takes a quick glance at social media and public opinion to see that we are in desperate need of these style of events in such a wonderfully affluent area, it is what we want and deserve.

“Banbridge has potential to be the town in which you can achieve successful business ventures, with the continued support of everyone who wants this town to strive. That is the positive message we need to take away. This opinion along with the continuation of a ‘can do’ attitude by certain business owners, councillors and residents alike, will bring Banbridge into the 21st century.

“May we take this opportunity to thank all involved from within the council who worked with us, including council officers and councillors alike who were in favour of this event from the start and have been unbelievably supportive and advisable throughout this planned occasion. We could not have got this far without the aforementioned people. We will not let this stop us trying so long as the support remains.”