Sun God Festival 2015 will be the first to offer a beer garden as part of a joint effort to reduce the binge-drinking that happens before the event, according to A.S. Concerts and Events Associate Vice President Seraphin Raya. Other changes to this year’s festival include instituting a no re-entry policy and potentially selling tickets to graduate students.
“Beer garden is essentially an area most music festival and events designate specifically to the sale of beer,” Raya said in a Feb. 4 interview with the UCSD Guardian. “Over the past 10 years, people have been introducing these into events because there’s been problems with binge-drinking.”
In order to access the beer garden, set to be behind the Midway tent, students will be required to show a government-issued ID, after which they will receive a beer garden wristband. Students will also only be allowed to consume beer in the beer garden itself.
Unlike Bear Gardens that serves two free beers, at this year’s Sun God, students will be able to purchase up to three beers over a longer period of time. However, the number of beers they will actually be allowed to purchase is contingent upon their arrival time.
Executive Director of Student Health and Well-Being Karen Calfas told the Guardian that the wristband will be used to keep track of the number of individual purchases.
“People won’t be able to drink one beer after another, after another. They’ll have tabs on their wristbands that will be removed and they won’t be able to get another beer until a certain period of time goes by,” Calfas said. “That’s forcing people to kind of pace the ingestion of alcohol to kind of level out their blood-alcohol content.”
Calfas called the beer garden a harm-reduction initiative and emphasized that the logistics concerning the number of beers and time intervals are based on national recommendations and standards in the alcohol-serving industry.
“The idea is that it reduces the need for students to drink heavily before coming into the event,” Calfas said. “Our hope is that this will contribute to people kind of decreasing the highest risk drinking, which is drink after drink, and way too many of them in a row.”
Raya and Calfas also said that individuals who appear to be intoxicated, regardless of their age, will not be permitted to enter the festival. Furthermore, the bartenders hired, which will likely be from the same company that caters Bear Gardens, are trained to identify intoxicated or drugged individuals.
“This is part of a program that’s done throughout the county where they train bartenders in what they call ‘responsible hospitality,’” Calfas said. “It’s been shown to reduce drunk driving, DUIs and actual fatalities from drunk driving incidents, so these are kind of techniques we know are effective.”
According to Raya, ASCE has been organizing the Bear Gardens for the past eight years without hospitalizations for conditions related to alcohol or drug use.
Raya hoped that attendees wouldn’t stay too long in the beer garden throughout the festival and also said that it will be open until an hour and a half before the headliner performs.
“The beer garden will be open from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and that’s just because the state requires that all events cut beer gardens, or the sale of alcohol, one hour before the event is over,” Raya said. “There has to be a window for people to sober up so they can try to drive home safely.”
In addition to changing the format of the festival and providing a beer garden, entrance to the festival will be more heavily scrutinized. Raya stated that individuals who are found to be intoxicated by drugs cannot be admitted into a detox facility and will need to be hospitalized and potentially taken to jail.
“In previous years, we’ve had Staff Pro and police officers looking out for students, but this year, in particular, we’re [going to] have more time at the entrance; it’s not just [going to] be a straight walk through onto the field,” Raya said. “Students are [going to] have to scan their wristbands and also get a bag check, so that will add to the amount of time that we’re interacting with the student in order to allow us to increase our abilities to assist students in need.”
Additionally, ASCE has confirmed the Sun God Festival headliner, whom Raya says is a household name. In a previous interview, Raya mentioned this year’s offer to the headliner was more than in any previous years.
ASCE will formally announce the lineup sometime in early Spring Quarter.
“We’re working on finishing up the last, tiny edits of the contract, so now we’re moving onto to the rest of the lineup,” Raya said. “We just sent out an offer for the person that’s starting the day, so we’re super excited. Essentially, what we’re doing is building a really exciting lineup that students won’t [want to] miss.”
ASCE will be holding three more open forum events on Feb. 17, March 2 and March 10 in Price Center’s Red Shoe Room to allow for student input and participation.