A month ago, organizers of the popular Vancouver Craft Beer Week (VCBW) festival sent out a media release spotlighting how the 2022 event promised to set itself apart from past iterations of the beloved tasting.
"With an ambitious new ownership team at the forefront, VCBW returns bigger and better than ever before with a number of new and expanded features," it begins.
This weekend, after some accounts of ticket-holders having a disastrous experience, organizers of "the Lower Mainland’s largest craft beer festival" are issuing statements and apologies.
Attendees of the Saturday tasting event on the PNE grounds reported a massive line-up for entry, as well as lengthy line-ups at the beer vendor stands.
Guests were required to purchase RFID wristbands and pre-load them with a $50 deposit in order to purchase beers (on top of the admission cost). Organizers explained the cashless wristband system was put in place "due to logistical and health reasons," and described the process as "easy peasy."
'Wasn't as seamless as we had hoped it would be'
However, some attendees cited problems with the wristband system, including long waits to add funds, being charged multiple times, and usage problems. One frustrated ticket holder said the system was "barely working" in their post-event rant on Reddit.
In an initial statement shared online following Saturday's event, VCBW organizers said: "Our goal was to simplify the process at the event removing tokens and ensuring all guests would be refunded anything they didn’t spend. We worked with a third party vendor for months, but unfortunately this process wasn't as seamless as we had hoped it would be."
On top of lines and payment issues, the biggest complaint was access to water, with attendees outraged they were not permitted to bring in empty bottles for filling with water, and only had the option to buy bottled water at $3 a piece. Many noted the water for purchase - when it was available - was warm Dasani.
"The event doesn't provide free, accessible water. This is unacceptable for my health. Especially on a sunny day with minimal cover," said a ticketholder in an email to organizers shared with V.I.A.
"They refuse to let you bring water bottles, and then they charge you for water, the absolute f'ing gall," described Reddit user arrbos.
"One of my main gripes is with water - in the past attendees could bring a refillable bottle and there were water stations around the event. To limit ticket holders to $3 bottles of water ONLY is ridiculous for a liquor event. Water should be free and free flowing, especially with the heat we had yesterday. Every time we went looking for water there wasn't even anyone at any of the marked water stations on the map. Incredibly shortsighted in my opinion," commented Erin Searle (@von_rockinon) on Instagram.
'Half our workforce didn't show up'
VCBW attributed some of the issues to staffing problems. "Half of our workforce didn't show up," organizers said in a second statement issued late Sunday.
Many, however, felt like the organizers were not adequately taking responsibility, in particular for the no-show volunteers. "If it was due to staff being sick, they shouldn't throw them under the bus for the issues with their event, citing excuses for atrocious lines with 'staff that didn't show up.' They should instead take ownership for the piss-poor planning and organization. They could have anticipated this, after all, being in a pandemic for 2+ years," said a Reddit user named f*ckyduck.
"Volunteers are not a 'workforce.' You failed to organize volunteers and failed on almost every other aspect. Depriving people of water is inhumane, monstrous behavior. You are greedy, unapologetic monsters," said Beatriz Rod (@bettyrm90) on Instagram.
Some guests were more understanding. "Though I’m one of the people who was frustrated on Saturday, I am grateful to the volunteers who did show up and the breweries and their staff that kept the beer flowing as fast as they could to serve as many people as they could. I met some lovely folks on Saturday and the overcrowding, line, and lack of water was not their fault!" said Noelle (@dunworrybehoppy) on Instagram.
VCBW organizers said they now know that being understaffed and having wristband tech issues got in the way of showing guests a good time. "Unfortunately, we missed the mark," they said, inviting feedback to be sent to them via email.
For some, though, the 2022 VCBW was the end of the road. "Never again," avowed Reddit user caw___caw. "There [aren't] chill vibes anymore like the previous year. It just feels like a chore having to run line to line to get your next beer. Chasing your buzz."