Downtown Whitby Beer Festival cancelled for not being ‘family-friendly’ enough

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Published April 10, 2024 at 4:15 pm

Whitby Beer Festival
Downtown Whitby Beer Festival

A beer festival with the main session held on a Saturday night in downtown Whitby has been deemed not “family friendly” enough and has been given the axe by the town’s Downtown BIA.

DBIA Chair Diandra Persaud was at Whitby Committee of the Whole meeting giving an overview of the group’s financing Monday when she announced the beer festival would not be going forward.

“It is in Celebration Square and there’s alcohol involved,” Persaud said. “It’s a 19-plus event so it’s not a family-friendly event.”

Persaud acknowledged the beer festival, which launched in 2018 (and was one of the first events of the then newly re-formed DBIA) , has been successful, but the event – which traditionally has two sessions, with the main session happening after most downtown shops have closed – “does not encourage foot traffic in the stores.”

Photograph by Whitby Design

The profitability of the festival, as well as the “equity” have been a topic of discussion at the DBIA “for some time,” leading to the decision to not include the event in the 2024 DBIA budget.

Town Brewery, located at Whitby’s waterfront, played a major role in the inaugural event and has participated in each of the subsequent festivals but the DBIA news took them by surprise.

“First I heard of it,” said Travis Johnson at the brewery. “We’ve always been a part of it.”

A suggestion that the Pumphouse, a municipally-owned venue the brewery leases each summer could be used to host the event isn’t likely without a serious downsizing of the festival, he noted, as Celebration Square holds 500 people for the event. The Pumphouse capacity is less than half that number.

“We’ll ask around to see if there’s any interest in keeping it going,” he said. “There’s definitely value in the event.”

The last post on social media from the DBIA was on September 12 and expressed optimism for the future:

The fifth-annual Downtown Whitby Beer Fest was a blast! A MASSIVE thank you to everyone who attended and supported the event! To all of our wonderful volunteers, you all rock – thank you so much for your time, commitment, and support! See you all next year!

Photograph by Whitby Design

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