Is the party over in Snowmass?

Steve AlldredgeSnowmass correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE The days of bringing your own booze to the free summer concerts on Thursdays in Snowmass Village are over.According to a policy change announced by Snowmass police and the town’s marketing and special events department, music fans will be able to bring their own picnic baskets, but not their own booze onto the Fanny Hill concert site. Wine and beer will likely be available for purchase, however.While we appreciate the tradition and positive aspects related to the practice of allowing patrons to bring their own alcoholic beverages to the free concert series, as these events have grown in size, the incidents of underage drinking, over consumption and unruly behavior have also been on the rise, said Police Chief Art Smythe. Its important that we are consistent with any other special event held in Snowmass. With 2-3,000 people coming to the concerts, we think a more managed alcohol policy that is in compliance with state regulations is needed.The towns marketing and special events department will apply for a liquor license for Fanny Hill to offer outdoor stations for the purchase of wine and beer at affordable prices.The event is near and dear to many locals hearts, and we plan to maintain the essence and flavor of this casual, community-oriented social experience, said Susan Hamley, director of marketing for Snowmass Village. But there is a greater chance of long-term success for events that provide quality entertainment, are in full compliance with the law, have reduced liability and are orderly and family friendly.The Town of Snowmass Village founded the Summer Concert Series in 1992. In 2003, the towns marketing and special events department took over presenting the events. A locals favorite that has blossomed into a full-fledged summer tradition, the crowds for the Thursday night concerts have grown from a couple hundred people to nights where the crowd ranges from 1,500 to 3,000. The marketing department also presents the two Saturday Massive Music & Movies concerts, and the new alcohol policy will be in effect for those nights as well.As concert crowds have grown the last several years, and more and more people hang out in local restaurants and bars afterward, a couple of violent, alcohol-fueled incidents have marred the events. This has prompted town staff to look at how these special events been managed and led to the decision to halt the BYOB practice.Last summer, two assaults on Thursday nights became criminal court cases. The perpetrator in the more serious altercation Justino Iglesias Ochoa, was last month sentenced to 150 days in jail in the unprovoked beating of local David May following a Thursday night concert. Ochoa had a blood-alcohol level in excess of .2 that night, and alcohol was determined to be a major factor in the case. May suffered extensive injuries, including a broken nose, jaw and skull and concussion.Numerous underage drinking incidents were also reported at the concerts, and underage drinkers were cited by the local police for attempting to drink in local bars. These incidents and the size of the crowds had some questioning whether or not a change in policy was needed.This change means the free music events will be run like some of the town-sponsored special events like the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest.People can still bring their blankets and their picnic baskets, and we want the events to still be casual, friendly and fun, said marketing director Hamley, But with the size of the crowds we have to follow the law its not our choice. We think the concerts should be less about getting wasted and more about getting together with friends and family.But some traditions die hard, and the casual, party-scene at the Thursday night concerts has become as established as mountain bike trips to Moab in spring.As a town councilman, I hate to see this tradition go, said Reed Lewis. I think a more productive approach would be to enforce underage drinking laws and public drunkenness. I think a majority of the people who attend the concerts have handled the responsibility quite well.And as the owner of the Daly Bottle Shop on the Mall, Lewis goes on to explain how this decision is going to make it very difficult for his business to survive the summer months.I hope the people behind quashing traditions in Snowmass Village are aware of the fallout of their decisions, Lewis said.The decision to modify the alcohol policy at all town-sponsored special events was discussed by Town Council and the town attorney in a recent executive session during a council meeting.