Vancouver Craft Beer Week responds to criticism over lines

Beer lovers who headed to the Pacific National Exhibition for Vancouver Craft Beer Week on Sunday found hardly anyone in line – a far cry from the hours-long waits festival-goers faced on the first day of the event.

Those who attended on Saturday have been voicing their frustration on social media, posting photos and videos showing the lineup stretching from the festival entrance, out of the park and down East Hastings Street.

Many users complained about long lines to sample beers once inside the venue, as well as problems with the festival’s RFID wristband payment system and a lack of water and food options on offer.


2 HOURS TO GET IN

Twitter user @aYVRrenter spoke to CTV News on the phone, but did not want to give her full name. She said she’s hoping to get her tickets refunded, and worries that complaining about the event in the media might make it harder for her to do so.

She and her husband spent $50 apiece on general admission tickets, plus $100 on a wristband, which they had planned to share. They realized later that wristbands were linked to tickets and she would have to have one of her own. That cost another $50, though it should be noted that the wristbands were designed to return unused credit after the event.

The tickets themselves are non-refundable, according to the VCBW website.

The doors were scheduled to open for general admission ticket-holders at 3 pm Saturday, and @aYVRrenter said she and her companions arrived in two groups around 2:50 pm, expecting to wait 20 minutes or so to get inside.

Instead, they found that the line was already spilling out onto East Hastings Street, with no visible event staff or signage to indicate where the line should go.

After waiting for more than 45 minutes without seeing the line move noticeably, @aYVRrenter and her companions left and went to breweries in East Vancouver instead. She said it seemed like a lot of people who had been waiting to get into the event at the PNE did the same.

“We actually recognized groups of people (from the VCBW line),” she said.

Meanwhile, the other group of companions that @aYVRrenter had been waiting with stayed in line. They were able to get into the festival around 5 pm, more than two hours after they arrived, she said.

She described the event as “a complete disaster” and those responsible for it as “just so woefully underprepared.”


VCBW ISSUES STATEMENT

On Sunday, organizers issued a statement responding to the criticism and blaming delays getting into the event on a lack of available staff.

“Thank you to everyone who attended VCBW yesterday after a two-year hiatus, post pandemic,” the statement reads. “We acknowledge that some of you faced challenges yesterday and had to wait longer than anticipated.”

“As seasoned event producers, we had prepared in case issues arose, but we faced unprecedented and unfortunate staffing shortages yesterday, which significantly affected the entry lineups. These issues coupled with the enthusiasm guests had to return gave the impression to some that we oversold when we issued the same number of tickets as in 2019.”

Organizers also acknowledged issues with the wristband system, saying the goal behind it was to “simplify the process” compared to previous years.

“We worked with a third-party vendor for months, but unfortunately this process wasn’t as seamless as we had hoped it would be,” the statement reads.

Anyone who had issues with the wristbands or other feedback on the event can email info@vcbw.ca, organizers said.

“We understand how frustrating this was for guests and thank everyone for their patience and understanding while we navigate returning to in-person events,” they added.


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