Call it the ‘Dry Dome.’
When the Toronto Blue Jays take the field tonight for the second half of their season-opening home stand at the Roger’s Centre, rowdy baseball fans will be thirsting for more than a win over cross-border rivals the Detroit Tigers.
Tonight, thanks to recent enforcement action by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, fans will also face the daunting task of sitting through nine innings of play – without beer or wine.
The prohibition stems from a host of liquor license infractions dating back to 2007 said Lisa Murray, a senior manager for corporate communications at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
According to Murray the violations occurred during both Blue Jays and Toronto Argonaut games. The marijuana incident took place at an AC/DC concert, she said.
As a result, the AGCO hit the Rogers Centre and licensee (vendor) Aramark Entertainment Services Inc. with a suspension of their liquor license for three events this year: two Blue Jays games (April 7 and April 21) and one Argos game (August 1).
Murray says that the length and severity of a liquor licence suspension takes into account an establishment’s past history of sticking to the rules. And while the AGCO aims to impose the suspensions during events of a similar scale to the those where the infractions occurred, in this case they go into effect on dates that Rogers Centre officials specifically suggested, she said.
Tonight’s ban falls on the second day of the baseball season – traditionally one of the slowest days in terms of attendance. When questioned as to whether sanctions would been more effective had the ban been imposed at Monday’s packed season opener, Murray responded: “This isn’t meant to be punitive … It’s meant to encourage compliance. I mean, whether it’s today or tomorrow it’s certainly going to affect their business.”
Murray says the AGCO felt the dates suggested by stadium officials proved satisfactory and explained the penalties won’t be served consecutively, in part because the original infractions occurred throughout various times of the year.
Rogers Centre officials have only referred to the incidents that led to the suspension as “infractions”, leaving both Toronto media and fans in the dark as to why the building will go dry tonight.
Jay Stenhouse, vice-president of communications for the Toronto Blue Jays, said the Rogers Centre has never faced AGCO suspensions in the past and that the stadium fully intends to comply. He would not speculate as to whether the lack of alcohol would affect attendance on any of the dates that fall under the suspension.
“We don’t know how important (alcohol) is to our fans,” Stenhouse said. “If (attendance is) down tomorrow is it because it’s day two? Is it because of weather? Is it because of alcohol? There could be lots of factors.”
While the Rogers Centre may have never faced an AGCO alcohol ban in the past, it has had its share of related problems. As recent as the 2008 season, Blue Jays officials decided to prohibit the sale of alcohol in certain sections included in their “$2 Tuesdays” ticket promotion due to intoxicated patrons brawling in the stands and an on-field altercation, resulting in around 100 fan ejections from a single game.
Filed by Mike Crisolago