ABC imposed stricter rules on Broad Appétit

72 hours before Broad Appétit began, organizers of the event were told by ABC that they had to cordon off the sidewalks.

Update #1 — June 6, 2013; 4:41 PM

In our efforts to connect the dots and add context to this story, we overstated the connection between ABC, Shamrock the Block, and Broad Appétit. ABC’s Carol Mawyer would like to reiterate that ABC did not place stricter rules on Broad Appétit based on what occurred at Shamrock the Block. ABC evaluates each application on a case-by-case basis and considers many past events when making recommendations to the licensee applicant.

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Original — June 05, 2013

Judging by the mass of Instagram photos and bulging waistlines, the 30,000 attendees of last Sunday’s Broad Appétit enjoyed themselves. But unknown to the attendees that casually strolled the four blocks of W. Broad Street while sampling food from over 60 Richmond chefs, event organizers had, mere hours before, hurried to comply with new restrictions imposed upon them by Virginia ABC.

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On Friday, May 24th (just before Memorial Day weekend) organizers of Broad Appétit submitted an application for a Special Event Banquet license to ABC officials, 10 calendar days before the event.

But according to ABC, applications must be submitted 10 business days (PDF) prior to the event. ABC spokesperson, Carol Mawyer, said that, because of the Memorial Day holiday, it wasn’t until Tuesday, May 28th that “our agents got the application in hand.” That left only six days to review, discuss, and approve the permit application. “That’s not a lot of time,” Mawyer said.

On Thursday, May 30th, ABC agents informed Tracey Leverty of Echelon Event Management and other Broad Appétit organizers, that ABC would require barriers to run the length of both sidewalks on either side of Broad Street. These barriers would block off the sidewalks to Broad Appétit goers. That surprised Leverty, and for good reason: the ABC had never required a cordoned off section in the five years of Broad Appétit.

“We are not permitting you to have alcohol on the sidewalk,” Leverty said, recalling what she was told by an ABC agent. She said that an agent informed her that the changes were being made in light of the recent events at Shamrock the Block. “There was no real correlation or understandable link between what happened at Shamrock the Block…and what they were telling us what to do with the sidewalks,” Leverty said.

Shamrock the Block—a St. Patrick’s Day festival— is known for attracting a younger, raucous crowd. While Broad Appétit—a food festival—caters to a more placid, subdued demographic. Both events serve alcohol, but attendees at each event behave in much different ways. “[ABC agents] don’t know how apple and oranges our event is to Shamrock the Block,” Leverty said.

Due to the lack of time to work with Broad Appétit to develop a mutually agreeable security plan, ABC opted to impose different restrictions–including the sidewalk barrier. The barrier, as they saw it, served three purposes:

  1. Kept people consuming alcohol in a designated area
  2. Cleared paths on the sidewalks for emergency personnel (i.e. police)
  3. Created a buffer between Broad Street businesses and Broad Appétit

Leverty was surprised by that last concern. Among the eight businesses that were open along the stretch of Broad Street that comprised Broad Appétit, only three were restaurants with their own ABC permits. In years past, restaurant patrons taking alcoholic drinks into Broad Appétit (and vice versa) has “never been a problem,” she said. Restaurants knew that ABC violations during the event would bring trouble, so they self-policed. To Leverty, the barriers seemed unnecessary, but ABC held firm on the requirement.

When asked why ABC required the blocked off sidewalks this year, and not in the previous five years that Broad Appétit has operated, Carol Mawyer said, “We don’t look at the past five years. We don’t look at the past year. We look at each individual event separately.”

She said that events like Broad Appétit “are good for RVA, but we want to make sure that they’re safe as well.”

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On Friday, May 31st, the discussion between ABC and Broad Appétit organizers grew to include members of the Richmond Police and even the Governor’s Office, according to Leverty. A compromise was reached. Instead of Broad Appétit organizers needing to block off both sidewalks on either side of Broad Street, they would only need to block off one.

Leverty said organizers purchased roughly 2,000 ft. of snow fencing to block off the sidewalk. “At the end of the day, we ended up spending just over $5,000,” Leverty said, which includes the snow fencing material, as well as paying additional staff. “In my mind it feels like flushing money down the toilet.”

Leverty’s most upset that the changes did little, if anything, to ensure safety–and at a cost of $5,000. But she doesn’t see that additional cost coming out of her wallet, so much as it coming out of the wallet of local anti-hunger organization, Feedmore, for which Broad Appétit raises money. “That’s $5,000 less dollars that I can give Feedmore,” Leverty said. Money that would otherwise fund FeedMore during months when they often need it most.

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Some attendees were confused by the new layout. One attendee complained that the sidewalk blocked off access to businesses that would have otherwise been visited:

This was the first year they had the sidewalk fenced off and it made no sense. All it did was block people off from visiting local businesses…I went in Pibby Bikes and Quirk and they were both empty, meanwhile there were 35,000 people on the other side of a fence outside the front door. You had to walk to the end of the block then all the way back down the middle of the block. Completely absurd.

Leverty thinks ABC’s treatment of Broad Appétit may set a troubling precedent for organizers of other events. “It didn’t accomplish anything in my mind, safety wise,” she said about the extra restrictions. When she thinks about the extra cost for virtually no added safety or security, she shakes her head. “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

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  • The original version of this article overstated the connection between the incidents that occurred at Shamrock the Block and the new restrictions placed on Broad Appétit (see first update).

photo courtesy of Richmond Magazine

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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