Buskfest alcohol ban debate reignited after beer festival gets goahead

Banbridge council’s decision to approve a three-day beer and food festival has sparked calls for councillors to rethink the alcohol ban at the town’s annual music event, Buskfest.

The debate was reignited after a majority of councillors voted in favour of allowing Oktoberfest - a festival celebrating German beer, food and culture - to sell alcohol to festival-goers when it staged in Solitude Park between October 3-5.

Councillors who voted against the move included Paul Rankin, Jim McElroy, Herron and Baird. Councillors Glenn Barr and Elizabeth Ingram abstained.

Two of councillors who voted in favour of having alcohol at Oktoberfest have indicated to the Leader that the fact that festival was greenlit, could mean that the alcohol ban which has been in place at Buskfest since 2009, could be looked at again. A number of readers have also expressed a desire for the council to lift the alcohol ban at Buskest on the Leader’s Facebook page.

Councillor Carol Black said that she that she was in favour of allowing the sale of alcohol to at Buskfest, which was held last weekend, to be reinstated.

“I would like the council to do a rethink. If a beer festival can get approval, I don’t see why a beer tent at a music festival should not be allowed,” explained Councillor Black. “I totally reject the notion that adults cannot, en masse, drink responsibly.”

Referring to the council make-up in 2009, which voted for a ban and was DUP-dominated, the UUP councillor added, “I am fed-up with the DUP dictating a ‘dry house’. Let people make their own decisions.”

SDLP Councillor Seamus Doyle said it was time for the council to adopt a more “forward-thinking” approach to Buskfest, and other future major outdoor events Banbridge may stage. “As long as it’s well controlled I see no problem with that. Most festivals have controlled areas where drink can be purchased and consumed. Now that Oktoberfest has been approved that could set a precedent for the future,” explained Councillor Doyle.

One councillor who has voiced strong opposition to the sell of alcohol at any outdoor event was Jim McElroy who stated at Monday’s meeting that the council was “breaking its own by-laws” by allowing Oktoberfest to sell alcohol.