Rave promoters spoke out Thursday saying their event — billed as Canada’s largest electronic music festival — was unfairly targeted by the City of Edmonton and Edmonton police.
Promoters for the Element Music Festival spoke at a news conference Thursday after legally winning the right to sell alcohol at the festival this week.
"I'm disappointed that our efforts to put Edmonton on the map — artistically, musically — by bringing a world-class event to the city of Edmonton …are now be thwarted by the mayor, city council, city administration and the police," said Justin Pandos, with Connected Entertainment.
One year ago, the Edmonton Northlands Expo Centre had signed a deal with Boodang Productions to host the festival.
City officials and police pointed out the spike in sexual assault complaints and drug overdoses during raves, which tax emergency services, but decided to allow the event to go ahead providing Boodang implemented strict security measures.
'All we ask for is a level playing field with the rest of Edmonton’s major festivals.' —Justin Pandos, promoter
Northlands then expressed concerns about the sale of alcohol at the rave — citing the concerns of alcohol being mixed with drugs, which are typically prevalant at raves. They told Boodang no alcohol would be permitted.
The promoter took Northlands to court and on Tuesday a judge found in favour of Boodang and allowed alcohol to be served at the event.
Pandos said while they plan to implement strict security measures — as directed by the city — but they feel they’ve been treated unfairly.
"All we ask for is a level playing field with the rest of Edmonton’s major festivals," Pandos said.
"A good example of the current discrepancy is the Feb. 6 concert of LMFAO, another electronic music artist.… They played another Northlands-managed venue — Rexall Place — that show attracted over 12,000 people, on par with the attendance for Elements. However, that show was not subject to the same stringent requirements that we are facing."
Pandos mentioned other festivals and sporting events as proof that the city does not usually require such severe measures.
"How about the Edmonton Eskimos games?" he asked. "The Oilers? How about Edmonton's Folk Music Festival, which is three times as large as Elements ... will they be subject to the same points and arbitrary requirements? It's a question that we'd all like to be answered, if possible."
High security bills
Sgt. Nicole Chapdelaine said that kind of comparison isn't fair. She mentioned that the biggest concern is the problem with overdoses at events where alcohol and drugs are often mixed.
"We've known from the onset that drugs have been a part of this [rave] culture," Chapdelaine said.
Viet Nugyen, with Boodang Entertainment, said they will be as vigilant as possible in hopes of stopping drug use, but adds there is only so much that can be done.
"K-9 units [will be] on hand to detect drugs, many police officers, searches will be extremely stringent," Nugyen said.
"We're doing everything we can pretty much. It's pretty much like a border crossing, some stuff is going to get through. Most of the stuff, we're going to try to eliminate."
Promoters are also concerned about having to pay $145,000 for security efforts without first receiving a detailed bill.
"To pay a bill without seeing an explanation of the associated cost is not good business. It seems like an arbitrary figure," Pandos said.