“Tempest in a beer cup”

The Globe and Mail turned its attention to the summer pedestrianization of Ste. Catherine St. in the Village today, focusing in particular on the controversy over the local merchants’ association’s requirement that all of the street’s bars, café and restaurants serve only Labatt’s products on their terrasses. It includes a couple of quotes from yours truly, along with some interesting comments from Steve Davies, VP of the New York-based Project for Public Spaces.

Across North America, summer festivals run by private entities take over parks and streets, often with exclusive rights to allow access and to sell products. Many of the examples are more intrusive than the Montreal beer sponsorship.

In one infamous example in the United States, Washington’s National Mall was fenced off for a Pepsi product launch and concert – a 2003 scene described by the Project for Public Spaces as “singularly shocking for its sheer scope and audacity.”

Steve Davies, a vice-president of the New York-based group that encourages sensible integration of private business in public spaces, says sponsors get in trouble when they start constraining normal commercial activity.

“It goes too far when they use a sponsorship to start telling dozens of private businesses what to do on public land over an entire summer,” Mr. Davies said.

Read the full article here.

Photo by John Morstad for the Globe and Mail


  1. While I think the requirement was crazy and in so many ways just wrong, I don’t think the most credible way to bolster the argument is to misdirect: “Look! These even more insane endeavours were worse than us!”

    I posted a link in a news roundup a week or two ago to an article with soundbites from happy restaurateurs raving about how happy they are, though. I guess if the worry was that they had to buy a bunch of product they wouldn’t normally buy, the increase in sales more than made up for it.

  2. While I agree that forcing restaurants to sell beer that they wouldn’t normally sell is a little off, the problem with this debate is that it ignores the fact that the village buisness association (created, elected, and appointed by the buisnesses in the village to represent them and make these kinds of deals) signed off on the sponsorship deal. Its a little off for buisnesses to complain about a deal that they decided to take. They could have taken a reduced sponsorship that would have provided less money but not had the same sales restrictions.

    The fact is that it is just plain impossible for festivals like these to be held without sponsorship deals due to all the charges associated. Liability insurance is stupidly expensive for events in public spaces. Gay events even more so because of an ‘increased risk of pedifiles’ (seriously this is an added fee that gay events have to pay but non gay events don’t) The city has to be paid for clean up, permits, and liquor licencing, the police have to be paid for increased presence, security has to be paid for to make sure that people don’t walk off site with their bud lights, the fees for an event of this size are huge. This is the problem.

    If we want our public spaces and events to be free of advertizing then the underlying fee structure must change or people need to be willing to start donating.

    Demonizing Labatts for what was likely the most competitive sponsorship deal the buisness association could find, is ignoring the real issue of how insanely expensive it is to put these festivals on in the first place.

  3. While I understand that festivals have to peddle the beer of their sponsors this is not a festival or an event: it’s a 3 month, seasonal street closing. It’s my understanding that the BIA notified businesses only after they made the agreement, not before. I’d hate to see any more of these deals go down, especially when you consider that more streets (St. Paul?) will be closed next summer.

    I pity the smaller bars and places such as the dessert shop who normally wouldn’t carry this crap and who’ll probably be stuck with heaps of it after the summer is over. I also feel for the staff who have to explain to each customer that they can only bring them Bud Light on the street but if they want to drink beer, they must go inside and pour it into a Bud Light cup.

    I walk the length of the Village after each fireworks and it is the BIA who supply the street cleaners, not the city. The police are only present at a few intersections directing traffic and I suspect only during the fireworks. This isn’t a ‘site’, it’s a city street, and like anywhere else in Montreal you can walk off in any number of directions with your drink in hand.

    I blame the Village BIA for this idiocy. Hopefully they’ll consult their membership before they make another dumb decision such as this one. I suspect the Village businesses will have made enough extra money off the pedestrianisation to offset whatever they were forced to pay for the Bud Light and I don’t think that this deal will be renewed in 2010. Maybe they’ll be able to ship the leftovers to places where it belongs: cheesy sports bars.

  4. When will the Globe & Mail join the rest of us in the real world and allow access to their articles for free?

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