Capitol Riverfront BID Responds: “A BYOB option is not possible under the park insurance policy, without which we could not offer the concerts”

riverfront row
Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric Wilfong

Capitol Riverfront BID has released A Letter from the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District:

“Good afternoon:

We are writing to you as patrons and supporters of the Capitol Riverfront Friday Night Concert Series at Yards Park. We want to thank everyone who has attended the concert series and made it and Yards Park such a popular riverfront destination. The park has become what the creators of the Anacostia Waterfront Framework Plan envisioned back in 2003 – an opportunity for all to enjoy access to the Anacostia River through a beautiful public park.

Over the past five years, the popularity of the concerts has soared. Back in the summer of 2011, crowds averaged 100 people. Now the concerts routinely top 3,000 attendees, with one concert attracting over 5,000. As we continually evaluate the operation of the park and the concert series, we have considered annually whether the BYOB option is consistent with our park operations, and also whether it is operationally sustainable and insurable.

We discussed the likely changes with city officials and Capitol Riverfront stakeholders. The decision to omit the BYOB option, which occurred prior to any sponsorship decisions, was made for several important reasons, including:

 A BYOB option is not possible under the park insurance policy, without which we could not offer the concerts,
 The continued safety of our patrons, as crowds increase due to concert popularity
 Additional tons of discarded bottles that make for more difficult and costly trash removal.

The popularity of Yards Park has grown beyond our expectations, and our goal is to make sure the concerts remain a unique and free opportunity to enjoy music and community on the river’s edge. As always, concert- goers are welcome to bring their own picnics and non-alcoholic beverages, and a variety of canned beer and wine will be available at multiple stations at affordable prices.

We understand the disappointment many have expressed, and we are heartened by the loyalty that is being displayed for Bluejacket and other local businesses. In 2014, Bluejacket was a sponsor of the concerts and also vended in the park. The BID was approached by other potential sponsors who offered partnership opportunities, and Bluejacket declined a similar sponsorship.

Sponsorships and lease fees directly support ongoing maintenance, repairs, or programming in the park that will keep this neighborhood treasure vibrant and usable for years to come. Yards Park has had a series of planned capital repairs such as the recently completed installation of a new filtration system. The park has also had unforeseen repairs made from year-to-year savings, including the removal and reconditioning of pumps that flooded in 2014. We are very thankful for the sponsorship support we have received.

We invite you to come and enjoy this year’s series and concert line-up, beginning May 20th with the Tour de Fat concert in Yards Park.

Sincerely,
Michael G. Stevens, AICP
President

and

Dan Melman
Vice President of Parks and Public Realm”

51 Comment

  • A good response, but I still don’t understand. Did the park not have insurance before?

    • HaileUnlikely

      Maybe they recently renegotiated their insurance policy, which their insurer may well have required if they found out that events that previously drew a hundred people now draw multiple thousands.

    • They likely had it, but not for the crowd size they are pulling in now–it’s too bad. Shows we do still need all this new development in the city to help disburse folks more.

  • You can write all the paragraphs you want but the takeaway is still the same: you want to spend less and make more on this concert series, and this comes at the expense of one of the things patrons really enjoyed.

    • Ashy Oldlady

      To be fair, they aren’t a charity whose mission is to provide Navy Yard residents who are suffering great sadness due to a lack of entertainment and BYOB opportunities in their neighborhood. And let’s be real: if you really really need to bring in your own booze, you’ll figure out a way. It’s not that hard.

      • But presumably it is there mission to bring people to their neighborhood where they may patronize local businesses, as well as attend the concert. FMM, less reason to go there now.

  • It might have recently renewed? They could have switched to a cheaper option that didn’t cover the BYOB option? If they anticipate increased capacity, they would need to increase the number of “guests” the policy covered, which might have been predicated on removing the BYOB option. Either way, more people + sponsorship $$ was prob too hard to pass up.

    • Sure… but also clear that their original attempt to position this as an environmental stewardship move was, at best, a half truth.

  • “Additional TONS of discarded bottles…”?

    3,000 people are really drinking *that* much???

    • lets do a bit of math… an empty beer bottle weighs about 7 oz (give or take an ounce depending on the beer). For the sake of argument, lets say 2k people are drinking and 1k people abstain. If each of those 2k people have only 1 beer, that comes out to about 875 pounds of trash. Lets say these folks each have 3 beers, that comes out to 2625 pounds of empty beer bottles. A US ton is 2k pounds. So, yea, depending on how many concerts they put on, it could easily be additional tons of discarded bottles.

      • Ok, but how does any of that math change if the bottles are from BYOB or if they are bought on site?

        • people might drink more of beer they chose themselves than of coronas and modelos.

        • Most likely no bottles rather plastic cups. No 750 ml alcohol or wine bottles either. No massive coolers being brought either.

          • Yeah, that was my take – the vendor will poor the beer into a plastic cup for you. Which if we are really pedantic is actually creating MORE waste (and generally bad, foamy pours, so less beer).

  • Just confirming that this Yards “Park” is actually private property? For better or worse we have seen a proliferation of these private parks, which IMO allow more flexibility in some ways, such as to having concerns, but also come with the downsides of little to no community input. Imagine what they would go through to do this even in a City Park? Think about that Chuck Brown memorial concert from last year.

    • It’s a public park, but privately managed.

    • A business improvement district (BID) is a quasi-governmental entity which can essentially levy a task on the local businesses to fund improvements and events, such as this concert series. So it’s a public park, being managed by a local-quasi-governmental public entity.

    • randomduck

      It’s not managed by DC’s Department of Parks and Recreation, no. It’s a public-private partnership, which is why BYOB was allowed in the first place. Still, a really sad move and one that was done with too little transparency to allow for a more workable, public-friendly solution than what transpired.

  • They lay out a list of reasons that were never mentioned in the original announcement, AND manage to make Corona/Modelo sound like heroes for stepping up and sponsoring when other local options passed. Complete BS attempt to reverse all the bad PR they’ve had in the last week. This series won’t even be around in 2 years once everyone stops going this year. I hope the BID got Modelo to pay up front

    • SouthwestDC

      Umm, I don’t think everyone’s going to stop going. A lot of people like me don’t drink at all, so we don’t care. A lot of other people are already buying booze from the vendors, so they don’t care either. Maybe some of the BYOBers will stop going, but there’s not an alterative BYOB event is there?

      • Good for you, but if everyone who continues to attend these are non-drinkers like you then paying sponsors like Modelo or any other beer company are not going to continue to sponsor it

      • randomduck

        There are a lot of regular patrons who also appreciated the ability to save some money by bringing in our own alcohol – often purchased at stores within the BID (e.g. Bluejacket and Harris Teeter). So the BID is shooting itself in the foot here, to say the least.

        Removing BYOB makes the Yards Park concert series only *slightly* better than the Jazz in the Garden events on The Mall. And if attendance drops off, at least it’ll be a bit easier to claim some yard space for my sanitized picnic. :-/

      • I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop in attendance. No offense to the bands, but I don’t know many people who were going to the Yard’s Park to see a specific band (like a concert venue). It was largely because it was a casual, outdoor space to have a picnic and a bottle of wine with friends, and have some background entertainment. BYOB kept the overall vibe low-key and allowed everyone to enjoy the beverage of their choice. This new policy doesn’t exactly make me want to go out of my way to go down to Yard’s Park on a Friday. Ideally this is a stop-gap measure until a better solution is put into place.

      • I won’t be going, part because I don’t want to support them after their BS and greed and part because the music sucks

  • :cough: bs :cough:

  • Insurance: If I’m an insurance company, BYOB is a bad idea. People who hold liquor licenses in DC are held to certain service standards (underage sales, selling to inebriated people) that cannot be managed in a BYOB situation. Many of these insurance issues are better managed through a licensed vendor, who has the training to better manage them.
    Costs: These concerts are not free to put on. Trash removal is a growing concern, as noted above, as is maintenance of the park. By either (a) managing the license themselves and selling beer/wine/whatever at a profit, or (b) taking a cut of the vendor’s take, the concerts and associated costs are paid for.
    If you want to hear a concert for free with your own booze, turn your radio on in your back yard. Otherwise, understand that there are going to be costs associated with some of these events that you’d like to attend, and as a patron, you’re going to have to accept it. It’s a business decision meant to keep the series afloat, not something designed to tick off supporters.

    • All of the issues you cite are nothing new and are issues that they didn’t have a problem addressing until the event became sponsored by a beer company. That is why everyone with half a brain is calling BS on these phony reasons they cite.

      • Blithe

        What does seem to be relatively new is the change in audience size from around 100 to several thousand per event. I’d guess that this change in scale would have a considerable impact on costs — from insurance, to maintenance, and perhaps security. It seems like the priority for the BID may have been to keep the event free and open to the public. If attendance drops with the new policy, that might actually be a win — in that the concert series would revert to a smaller, less expensive, scale.

  • Insurance Company: People drinking in a public park? We can’t possibly insure this event!

    Capitol Riverfront: What if they were drinking Corona?

    Insurance Company: Oh, well that changes everything! People are much more responsible drinking Corona. We’ll gladly insure this event.

    • I dont think you know what you are talking about. By your logic, every single concert venue should be byob.

      Its about controlling the intake of booze. An insurance company might not want to insure a place if they think people are bringing in outside booze and get shwasted (because they could be liable for any injury that person might have while on the premises). The venue, by getting rid of byob, now controls the path of imbibing alcohol and can control the amount that is served, thereby limiting the risk of someone getting to drunk and falling over.

    • When offering coverage for this type of event, insurance companies will ask who is providing and serving food and alcoholic beverages and the insurance status of the vendors. BYOB vs. an insured vendor is going to make a difference in the coverage the organizers can get.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Insurance companies are in the business of making money. I suspect that they have found that there exists a non-zero correlation, which is nowhere near 1 but is decidedly not zero, between BYOB status and insurance payouts, and thus, they now charge more to insure BYOB events in order to ensure that across all of the events that they insure, they do not pay out more than they bring in. Nothing personal, just business.

  • Millennials and their complaining. Cracks me up.

    • Oh how cute. Millennial bashing. Up there with “Hipster” as unoriginal people’s favorite strawman.

    • Clearly you’ve never been to this event because if you had, you would realize how ignorant your comment is. The crowd is a healthy mix of people of all ages. With 30 and 40-somethings easily making up the majority. Not all that many Millennials.

      • I have been to this event, and I agree! But from the people I’ve seen complaining about this, which was what my comment is based on, almost all of them seem to fall into that category.

    • You’ve got a good sense of humor for a moody Gen-Xer 😉

  • I do wonder how enforceable this new rule is? Yards Park is pretty sprawling. Its not like gated in like the Sculpture Garden. Are they going to put security checkpoints up at every potential entry way? How hardcore do they really think security is going to be. I mean if one is smart, you can definitely bring booze in.

    • randomduck

      Enter the “American party cup” (which most Yards Park attendees used already for wine and craft beer) to the list of necessities to picnic.

      I doubt they can police these concerts like the NGA Sculpture Garden can. As you say, there’s no entry control (unless the BID plans on erecting snow fencing around the whole park for the summer*), so it’s a matter of keeping things more covert.

      * – Note that there may be control fencing in the park for the first Friday night event, as they have such stuff in place for the Tour de Fat events.

      • I’m actually volunteering for WABA that Friday. I’m intrigued how the whole thing will work out.

    • Then they might be spending the equivalent of what their “increased insurance costs” add up to for policing…haha net even, should’ve not tried to exploit your success by selling everyone out to Corona pesos!

  • I don’t think they understand the reason this concert series got so popular is because it’s BYOB. The insurance excuse is BS, they had insurance before, they opted to get new insurance without BYOB. If they need money for trash pickup they could charge people a donation to attend. Have people stationed at the entrance, though not forcing a line to enter, with donation boxes for $1-5.

    I’d rather pay that then pay for alcohol, especially since I don’t drink beer. I live in Mount Vernon and am charged a Mt Vernon tax bill twice a year in addition to my regular taxes for neighborhood trash pickup, which is not my personal trash. With all the new high rises in the Navy Yard neighborhood, are they not charging those residents taxes as well?

    • randomduck

      +1 – an entry fee/donation box would be an easy solution to this. The fact that such a solution was never floated as a possibility is really sad, as is the entire non-transparent approach the BID took with the whole decision to remove BYOB. As you say, it was *the* attraction of this Friday night series for many attendees, and had the wonderful aspect of balancing a family-friendly event with allowing adults to be, well, adults.

    • Yes, they are charging us. If you rent, I believe they charge the owner of the building a per-unit fee for the BID, but if you own, we pay 60 bucks 2x a year for BID services.

  • I’m curious how Wolf Trap, which is on NPS land, allows BYOB and yet it’s an issue here.

    • Blithe

      Wolf Trap sells tickets. This provides them with cash to cover the costs of running their programs as well as the ability to predict the size of their audiences. If the primary issues with BYOB are insurance and, perhaps, security and other support services, it’s probably easier to provide these things when the patrons are paying to cover their cost.

    • You may have answered your own question. It’s on NPS land so Wolf Trap is possibly self-insured and immune from many (admittedly, not all) of the types of lawsuits that the BID wouldn’t be.

  • I have no problems with the lack of BYOB at the park events. I’m not a fan of public drinking outside restaurants/bars and that’s exactly what this was.

  • It is GREED. The initial excuse is poor (then they changed it) and they have ruined a nice event in the name of money. I wonder what their public facing statement is to why they chose Corona? I won’t go now

    • Blithe

      Greed? Your post was very different from what I was expecting. I was all set to agree that people who complain about the efforts of the BID to keep this event free and open to the public by seeking sponsorship — without suggesting or providing resources to fund it– are kind of, well, the embodiment of greed. In any case, I guess we can both agree that “GREED” may be a major factor in why we can’t enjoy “nice” things.

  • My anecdotal observation: concert attendance significantly increased after the Harris Teeter opened and people could more easily purchase booze on their way to the concerts. It opened fall 2014, prior to that I don’t remember there being 1000s of people there. Last year especially the trash was terrible and it was dumb that the BID didn’t put more trash cans around.
    I’m pretty sad about the change in BYOB but I did learn a new alcohol method that involves putting wine/liquor in a plastic baggie and rolling it up in foil like a burrito so I might try that in the future! Also I don’t understand where the stage is going on the Great Lawn, will it be where the DJ was during the light up bunny display?It’s all confusing.

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