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Are we safe from assault at beer festivals?

Shockwaves rippled through the industry after violent assaults occured at a New Zealand beer festival over the weekend.

One of the assaults, which according to local reports happened over the weekend at Dunedin Craft Beer Festival, involved a festival worker being picked up and dropped on his head, much to the shock of other attendees and co-workers, leading some to question how the situation could have been prevented.

Senior Sergeant Anthony Bond of Dunedin Police said that officers responded to reports of a man working at one of the festival’s beer stalls at the Forsyth Barr Stadium being assaulted by a festival attendee at about 6.50pm on Saturday.

A 20-year-old man attending the festival ran towards the 19-year-old employee and picked him up off the ground before dropping him onto his head causing severe concussion.

According to Bond, the two men were not known to each other and alcohol consumption has not been outlined as a cause for the assault, leading to queries over what actually happened to lead to the incident. Additionally, since the situation was not a normal occurance for an event such as this, where some might suggest staff needed to stay wary of serving limits for people who may have over-imbibed, the event took place without communication.

The assault also raised questions on how festival planners could assure that the safety of their workers and attendees was guaranteed and also how situations like these can be intervened upon or dealt with in the future to prevent further trauma.

According to the police, the beer festival employee was still recovering from his injuries while the rest of his festival co-workers are also shaken by what happened. The 20-year old man has since been charged with assault and intent to injure.

In additional reports, the same police department revealed that outside the same festival the night before at around 8.15pm another assault had already occurred. According to the police, the additional Friday night assault outside the stadium involved a man punching another several times in the head before kicking him once he was on the ground in an attack that also led to the police needing to be called to the scene to intervene.

The officers have since revealed that both men linked to the assaults at the beer festival will attend Dunedin District Court on Thursday, while the rest of the wider industry considers the events and how it moves forwards with beer festivals that place people’s safety in working at them as well as attending them as a high priority.

Speaking to the drinks business, Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival director Jason Schroeder assured: “The Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival places paramount importance on the safety and well-being of all our patrons, vendors, and contractors and condemns inappropriate behaviour. Regarding the alleged assault on Saturday reported in the media, we would like to clarify that the circumstances of the incident have not yet been officially confirmed. Security and St John’s Ambulance teams were prompt in their response, and the joint operations control (JOC) played an integral role in managing the situation.”

Schroeder explained: “Any incidents occurring on Friday took place outside the festival grounds, involving patrons removed from the event premises. The matter now resides with the police” and pointed out that “now in its 11th year, the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival has a history of operating without incident”.

He told db: “The enduring support from vendors and contractors year after year and the strong collaboration with Dunedin stakeholders is a testament to the festival’s success and operational efficiency. Planning for the festival starts in January of each year, with safety and harm prevention at the core of the strategy” and highlighted how this was an “isolated event in 11 years”.

Schroeder added: “As organisers, we take great pride in the effective organisation of our event and maintain a strict policy against serving or retaining patrons displaying high levels of intoxication. Furthermore, no concerns have been raised by our vendors or industry peers to date post event.”

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