Council performs U-turn after Cloudwater beer festival licensing mix-up

A beer festival run by the Manchester craft brewery Cloudwater over the weekend was saved at the last minute when the council performed a U-turn allowing it to go ahead, as long as there was no drunkenness on site.

Cloudwater’s Friends and Family Beer Festival, its first event on this scale, was scheduled to take place on 1 and 2 March. Bringing together all of the breweries with whom it had ever collaborated, the event went ahead as planned on Friday 1 March.

However, on Friday evening, the brewery was told by the police that the venue, Upper Campfield Market, was not licensed to serve alcohol, despite it being told the opposite by a managing agent acting on behalf of Manchester City Council.

As such it was left with the task of finding an alternative venue for the sold-out event, with both planned sessions for the following day having sold 850 tickets. Around 65 breweries from around the world, including Cloudwater, were due to pour at the event.

Taking to social media, the brewer pleaded for help to resolve the situation, stating: “This is some of the worst news we could possibly receive right now. The police have informed us that Upper Campfield Market is not, as we have been assured on many occasions by the managing agent acting on behalf of Manchester City Council, licensed for the sale of alcohol.

“The attending police officer earlier this evening, the two licensing officers, a licensing solicitor, and even the night-time tzar of Greater Manchester, appear to have exhausted every option to allow us to operate in Upper Campfield Market tomorrow. If we ignore the licensing team, and run tomorrow anyway, [we] risk an unlimited fine or six months imprisonment.

“Despite meeting every other operational requirement and licensing condition, we have been told there is nothing further either GMP or Manchester City Council can do to help.”

Finally at the eleventh hour, the brewery was given permission to continue at the site, with the council turning a blind-eye to the licensing issues.

In a statement, Cloudwater said: “The city, and an incredible number of its top people have pulled every single stop. Never felt this much support, had this much encouragement. We are continuing at Upper Campfield.

The brewer offered partial refunds to those who had tickets to the first session of the day. Night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and Manchester councillor, Pat Karney, were part of the team that worked behind the scenes to ensure the event went ahead.

“To everyone we let down, we are deeply sorry. To everyone that will make it, come have a great time but please help us get this over the line without a single hitch. We can not allow any drunkenness on site without facing severe consequences,” Cloudwater added.

Speaking to Manchester Evening News on Saturday, Lord commented: “Two sessions had been planned for today – one from morning until mid afternoon and another from mid afternoon until 10pm. Both sessions had sold 850 tickets – a sell out.

“The council will turn a blind eye on this occasion. The U-turn has been achieved thanks to the amount of love and positivity and support for Cloudwater, which has been phenomenal. They have been led down the garden path and were looking at reputation and financial damage. But it is good to see a common sense approach.”

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