The consumption of alcohol has always been prohibited in the parking lot at the concert venue currently known as Jiffy Lube Live located in the Northern Virginia suburb of Bristow, Virginia. The Thespian has memories of attending concerts during the venue's very first season when the venue was known as Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge, in 1995 when one had to cleverly disguise alcoholic beverages. The alcohol ban since then was mostly winked at until two high profile drunk driving deaths occurred.
In 2009, tragedy struck when a grandmother and grandchild were killed by a drunk driver who had attended the Jimmy Buffett concert. In 2010, two teenagers were killed in similar circumstances following a Rascal Flatts concert. During the 2010 concert season, there was a zero tolerance for alcohol in the parking lot. Many Prince William County police officers patrolled the tailgating fans and, if they believed that your plastic cup was more than soda, they would demand that you pour it out on the ground.
For the 2011 season, Live Nation, the owner of Jiffy Lube Live, decided to go one step further and ban tailgating in the parking lots before and after all concerts. This led to an uproar, as the policy was not announced in advance of ticket sales and many concertgoers only discovered the policy when their tickets arrived with "No Tailgating"written upon them. This led to the formation of a Boycott Jiffy Lube Live Facebook page. Kid Rock declared on YouTube that he would no longer play concerts at the venue. Fans of Jimmy Buffett, for whom the tailgating party is part of the concert experience, wondered whether he would make a similar declaration.
There are valid reasons for banning tailgating at concert venues and sporting arenas. First, it discourages the heavy consumption of alcohol before the events. One assumes that if the pre-party is taken off the grounds either a designated driver would drive his inebriated friends to the concert or that responsible adults would limit their consumption of alcohol knowing that they had to drive. It also eliminates the vast amount of trash that accumulates in the parking lots and cuts down on the public urination that occurs on the edges of the parking lots as well. The tailgating ban also makes exiting the venue after the concert much easier as there is less debris to dodge when trying to navigate out of the parking lot. The Prince William County police are also in favor of the tailgating ban as it lessens the arrests and accidents that occur following concerts.
The problem with the new policy isn't its good intentions. The problem with the new policy is two fold.
First, if the goal is to eliminate drunk driving, then why does Jiffy Lube Live serve alcoholic beverages for the entire length of the concert? Even sporting events stop serving after the seventh inning stretch. Bars have a last call. Not Jiffy Lube Live. The venue serves frozen margaritas and daiquiris for $14, wine for $10, and beer for $10-$13. At the Jimmy Buffett concert alcohol was served from the moment the venue opened to concertgoers (the parking lot opened at 4:00 p.m.) until Mr. Buffett finished his third encore at 10:20 p.m. If the goal is to prevent drunk driving, Jiffy Lube Live is 100% contributing to the problem.
The second problem is how Jiffy Lube Live defines tailgating. Any other venue, concert or sporting, would consider tailgating as setting up a space around your vehicle in order to party. Chairs, grills, coolers, decorations, etc. So, what does Jiffy Lube Live consider tailgating? Are you sitting in your car? A parking lot attendant will knock on your window and tell you that is not allowed as that is tailgating. Did you bring a sandwich to eat instead of spending a lot of money on food inside the venue? A parking lot attendant will knock on your window and tell you that is not allowed as that is tailgating. Did you bring a beach ball to toss around the pavilion during the show? Better hide it under your shirt as it was reported to The Thespian by a few Parrothead fans that their beach balls were confiscated as that was considered tailgating. (Normally beach balls and inflatable beach toy sharks are tossed through a Jimmy Buffett concert. At the September 1, 2011 concert, The Thespian counted --there were less than 10).
It is this hostile environment towards their paying customers that is going to cost Jiffy Lube Live business. Thanks to its no refund policy, there was little damage to Jiffy Lube Live's coffers in 2011. The one exception was the Jimmy Buffett concert. Originally scheduled to be performed on August 27, 2011, the concert was postponed until September 1, 2011. Refunds were available to those who could not attend the rescheduled concert. What was a few hundred seats available on the 27th became thousands of seats available for September 1. Whether it was the short notice or the fact that it was a weeknight instead of a weekend or whether people took advantage of the refund to send a message of displeasure over Jiffy Lube Live's new no tailgating policy one cannot be certain. The proof will be the 2012 concert season. How many performers will refuse to book Jiffy Lube Live? How many concertgoers will not buy tickets to protest the no tailgating policy? As Jimmy Buffett sings "Only Time Will Tell."