From brat to wurst: Banbridge Oktoberfest cancelled after unionists say 'nein' to alcohol sales at Solitude Park
'To have a beer festival with no beer, what a laughing stock, absolutely ludicrous'
Oktoberfest Banbridge was set for October 3-5 at Solitude Park but has now been cancelled after a licence to sell any of the amber nectar was refused.
It is understood the organisers ordered 330 kegs of special Paulaner Oktoberfest beer, but plans suffered an early hiccup in June when the DUP and some Ulster Unionists on Banbridge council took a stand against selling alcohol at the park.
Councillor Jim McElroy proposed at a meeting of the leisure and development committee of the council that the sale of alcohol not be permitted at the event.
Councillor Junior McCrum explained the DUP position: "We spent £1.5m on Solitude to turn it into a space for people to walk and enjoy the park without being subjected to verbal abuse.
"Does everything have to revolve around drink?"
Eventually, however, Alliance, Sinn Fein, SDLP and two Ulster Unionist councillors voted the beer ban down in June.
But UUP councillor Carol Black slammed the DUP stance as "laughable".
"To have a beer festival with no beer, what a laughing stock, absolutely ludicrous.
"Again, the DUP are bringing their religious views into the political arena," she said.
Ambitious organiser Neil Loy had promised the event would be about "more than beer", detailing plans for yodelling competitions, German singalongs, traditional Oompah-pah bands, a visiting performance from one of BBC's The Voice contestants and traditional German food such as bratwurst sausages from an open charcoal swing grill.
Mr Loy told a local newspaper that he got the idea to stage the event after visiting an Oktoberfest event in Munich and said he wanted it to become an annual event.
But despite finally receiving the council's go-ahead, the organisers were still unable to get an alcohol licence.
They needed an occasional alcohol licence for the event in the park.
Organisers of Oktoberfest Banbridge posted on the event's Facebook page on Sunday that is had been cancelled "due to circumstances beyond our control".
"The alcohol licence for this event was not granted to us, and therefore the event will not be able to go ahead," they said.
Ms Black, who had been a strong supporter of the initiative, said local people are very disappointed that the event had been cancelled.
But she vowed it would take place next year.
"It would have been an absolutely fantastic concept for the Banbridge area bringing in new tourism and footfall, which is badly needed in our district," she said.
The lively Oktoberfest beer festivals originated in Munich in southern Germany in the 19th century and traditionally ran for three weeks from late September to the middle of October.
But the event, complete with its traditional brass bands, lederhosen and bratwurst, has spread across the globe as a popular party every autumn. An Oktoberfest event is set to take place in Newry from October 3-6.
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