The general manager of Taste of Edmonton has told a city council committee they may have to cancel the 2018 event next year when Churchill Square is closed for LRT construction.
Events Edmonton has its sights on using the new Capital Square at the Alberta Legislature grounds at the foot of 108 Street. On Monday they were told, in no uncertain terms, an office of the legislature wants no part of their type of people there.
“The point was being made that we don’t want to see beer gardens, and people on the grounds, on the grassy area,” Paul Lucas told the amazed councillors. “What we’re looking for is just strictly the legislative plaza itself to be utilized.”
“Our dealings with this has been very autocratic. It’s zero tolerance.”
Coun. Scott McKeen, who represents the downtown area, had a hard time processing the sentiment.
“The response you got seemed to suggest that live music, eating of good food, responsible drinking, those violate Alberta values,” McKeen asked.
“That is nonsensical.”
The stance by the province dates back a couple of years when this was first talked about.
“It was up at the assistant deputy minister level, as well as the facility manager for the grounds,” said Rob Smyth the deputy city manager. “They do have policy to maintain the dignity of that entire parcel was certainly paramount.”
“There is an antiquated policy, which I’m having the department review now, that prohibits from the entire legislature campus any events that may involve alcohol, or dancing,” Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason said.
“There’s no dancing at the legislature.”
The city at one point also banned eating and drinking in Churchill Square, barring food trucks from setting up, then discovered that the place was barren. At that point the rules were eased and the square became more active.
“We’re a dignified order of government as well I think,” said McKeen.
Iveson was surprised at the legislature’s reaction, saying the province has always treated the legislature grounds as a passive recreational space.
“I thought it was really interesting at the inauguration of the new government that they brought food trucks onto the plaza for the first time,” he said Monday.
“Certainly our formula for activating a public space and getting families down there is to allow almost as much activity as you can, as long as you’re not going to break the infrastructure.”
It seems there may have been a little information lost in transit. Mason said his department brought the Taste of Edmonton request to him Friday morning and he approved the event.
“We have not had time to communicate that to Taste of Edmonton before they said all of those mean things about us this [Monday] morning at city council, so I want to have a little talk with the organizers of a Taste of Edmonton about their attitude because we do want the event to go ahead.”
Amber Rooke with The Works said they’re also looking at Capital Square for their event. She told the committee they’re running into the same opposition because art displays would happen on the square, and any food or drink element of the festival would be on a closed off 108 street.
Mason didn’t not speak to the issues raised by The Works.
The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival has also found a new home in Old Strathcona for the year.
Lucas told the committee option two for a one-year home is the parking lot between the Epcor Tower and CN Tower on what eventually will be Galleria land. That would be a scaled down version with fewer vendors to fit into a smaller footprint. He said they’ll have to know by September or else they may have to forgo having a Taste of Edmonton at all in 2018.
In the meantime, Iveson said the city will take another stab at finding a compromise with the province.
“I’m hopeful the provincial government will revisit some of those limitations, because it’s a great public space that more people should be able to use and more activities would help activate it.”
City staff are recommending a funding package of up to $372,500 for all three festivals – up to $110,000 for The Works, up to $90,000 for the Street Performers Festival and up to $172,500 for Taste of Edmonton. The money will be used for incremental operating expenses, additional staff, marketing and communications.