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Serious breaches at Sydney oktoberfest event

Monday 9 November 2015      [PDF,153kb]

Authorities have expressed concerns about the conduct of an Oktoberfest event held in Sydney after multiple serious breaches were detected.

The Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing (OLGR) and Police detected heavily intoxicated patrons and observed multiple violent and anti-social incidents as well as licence breaches at the over 18s event held at The Domain on Saturday 31 October 2015.

13,000 tickets were sold for the ‘Oktoberfest in the Gardens’ which was described as a national cultural event aimed at replicating cultural aspects of the annual German Oktoberfest festival in Munich.

The event featured a ‘massive big top beer hall’ and patrons were provided with 560ml event steins to drink from and provided free beer on arrival. The event was licensed from 2pm to 9.30pm, with entertainment including roving entertainers, German Oompah bands, local and national bands, DJs and competitions.

Prior to the event both OLGR and Police expressed concerns about potential risks given the nature of the event and previous similar events held in Melbourne and Perth and sought over 40 licence conditions to ensure the safe management of the event.

However, during the event organisers failed to maintain adequate controls to ensure responsible alcohol consumption and crowd management including failures in security monitoring and presence of Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) Marshals.

OLGR Director of Compliance and Enforcement Anthony Keon said: “OLGR and Police worked tirelessly with event organisers prior to the event to guide them on what could be done to ensure a safer event but they were resistant to changing their business model.

“As a result, problems arose including a large number of intoxicated patrons and antisocial behaviour. Inspector observed fights between patrons and there were scuffles with Police when patrons were being turned out. There were also patron assaults on security and OLGR officers. One male patron suffered a suspected drug overdose and received medical assistance by ambulance officers.

“This is a timely reminder that event organisers need to ensure they pre-engage with OLGR and Police when planning significant public events involving alcohol. They must ensure adequate security and alcohol management plans and controls are in place and are maintained during events to prevent intoxication and alcohol-related anti-social behaviour including violence.”

Inquiries are continuing prior to regulatory enforcement action being undertaken.

Issues detected at the Oktoberfest event

• Large number of intoxicated patrons significantly affected by alcohol.

• About 195 patrons ejected for intoxication or anti-social behaviour including violence.

• A number of violent incidents, including fights between patrons and patrons assaulting security.

• One male patron received medical treatment by Ambulance Officers for a suspected MDMA drug overdose.

• An assault on a security guard who required emergency medical treatment.

• An assault on two OLGR Inspectors by patrons and a further assault on a Police Officer.

• No identifiable Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) Marshals. Two RSA Marshals were required to be at every bar area and five RSA Marshals were to roam the event wearing reflective vests marked with ‘RSA Officer’ on their backs.

• Lack of active monitoring of patrons by security in the beer hall. Concerns about a potential crowd crush as patrons quickly converged there due to rain.

• Patrons standing, drinking and dancing on tables. Two male patrons turned over a table inside beer hall. Security not actively present.

• Patrons seen skolling beer in front of security guards prior to entering beer lines to purchase further drinks with no intervention.

• One bar had no security staff contrary to licence requirements.

• Patrons identified bringing in alcohol to the event, despite a requirement that bag checks be undertaken and metal detectors used, and a strict requirement that no alcohol was to be brought into the event.

• Numerous patrons were observed urinating on trees, perimeter fencing and the exterior of the beer hall tent.

• Numerous patrons observed lying down along the perimeter fencing in dark and unpatrolled areas with security failing to assess and remove them.

• An emergency exit gate on the venue's perimeter was left open with no security in the vicinity to supervise unauthorised entry or patrons as they left.