New security rules a challenge for festival organizers
Organizers of local events like Oktoberfest and The Blues Festival have found that new rules are making it more difficult, and more costly, to hire security personnel.
But it's not an area where they can afford to bend the rules.
Over the past five months, OPP have conducted 22 blitzes in communities across Ontario and laid more than 500 charges against businesses and individuals that allegedly failed to meet provincial security standards.
For North America's largest Bavarian festival, it has changed their security needs, the cost and ultimately even the festival experience.
Mark Kreller, executive director of Oktoberfest, says "It was very, very intimidating for patrons, and I was able to see it first hand."
New regulations for the security industry introduced over the last few years have meant an end to the days when volunteers could man the doors, leaving organizers to try to hire security guards that have ministry approved licencing and training.
Festhalls are trying to adjust, but the rules have created a clash of cultures. And Kreller says it is blurring the lines between 'volunteers' and 'security.'
"I mean they are dressed way more aggressively, with the big black boots, and sometimes some those security companies are carrying perhaps batons or, you know, black leather gloves."
Organizers of The Blues Festival say the cost of hiring security has also increased, almost 50 per cent in the last three years, likely because of low supply and high demand.
Kitchener Blues Festival President Rob Deyman says "Last year we had to contract with two firms, because the one firm we had contracted with in the past didn't have enough people in their inventory to meet our needs."
But Tony Atkins, of Tone-Gar Security in Kitchener, says the new training requirements are a positive change, and will increase professionalism and accountability.
"Somebody that maybe has been out of a job the day before, or works in a different industry the day before, now has a security guard shirt on. It doesn't necessarily give them the tools to be able to enhance that image for the client, and for everybody involved."
Earlier this month, an OPP blitz of nightclubs and bars in Waterloo Region, found ten out of the 11 establishments didn't meet security standards.
OPP Staff Sgt. Rick LePage says "The lack of compliance we found in Kitchener is no different than most areas of the province that we visit."
That means another visit by OPP is to be expected, which may be part of the reason festival organizers say they're working hard to understand and comply with the rules, so they won't end up facing charges.
"Frankly our Festhallen are quite concerned, and quite terrified about that prospect," Kreller says.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services says it has a working group that conducts ongoing reviews to ensure the training and testing are appropriate and relevant for the industry.