Monday, 22 April 2019

Unsanctioned Public Events

Vancouver, BC, near where I live on Canada's west coast, has just finished holding the annual 4/20 event on Saturday in glorification of cannabis culture. One of the main reasons it was held in the past was to protest and argue for the legalization of marijuana. For those who may not know, in 2018 Canada became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. This has led many to question why the 4/20 event still needs to be held at all.

This year's event drew an estimated 60,000 people to the site which was one of the city's parks. The interesting thing about this was that the event was not sanctioned by the city at all and the Parks Board who must maintain this particular park, seemed reluctant to allow it either but their problem was that they had no authority to stop it; only the city did. In other words, the entire event was unsanctioned. Yet it still needed policing, first aid, electrical power, toilets, ground cover, etc, etc., much of which was provided by the city. Last year in 2018, the Parks Board managed to recoup just under $65,000 of their costs but the city recovered none of the $ 170,796 they invoiced the organizers.

Now I do not have a problem with such an event IF it is properly licensed and controlled, regardless of what the cause is. What I DO have a problem with are the consequences of potential disaster. This could range from injuries of attendees or workers, weather cancellations, crimes like assaults and theft, serious damage to the park and a host of others. If one or more of these were to occur, who would be responsible for making things right? I sincerely doubt that any insurance company would be willing to pay the bills, although in fairness, the organizers of this year's event claim they did have event insurance, but when push comes to shove, I still cannot see them parting happily with millions of dollars if the event has not been approved. The city would not for sure, nor the Parks Board. In fact, the city is already in debt for this event for policing alone and will never see that cost recouped from the event's organizers. And what about the suppliers of staging, tenting, portable toilets, audio, lighting, etc. if the promoters do not make enough money to cover those bills? Those suppliers would undoubtedly never see any money. What is worse, if they had any damage to or theft of, equipment, they would probably never be able to recover the cost from their own insurance company because the event was unsanctioned. Even working such an event I would deem to be damaging to a supplier's reputation because it would tell me that this supplier does not care about  risk management and playing by the rules - not a good place to be in this highly competitive special event industry.

I would strongly recommend to all suppliers for such an event to take a good hard look at what you are getting yourself into and stay as far away as possible from any promoter who is unwilling to do things the right and lawful way.