Pacific Beach – San Diego Votes No to Cuervo Games

March 3, 2010 5 Comments

The Special Events Committee, comprised of representatives from the Pacific Beach Town Council, PB Planning committee and Discover PB the local Business Improvement District met this evening to review and make recommendations to the city about, a special event called Cuervo (Tequila) Games. Many members from the community, including myself, attended to hear the pitch and make our comments.

Click to view video

The Cuervo Games are essentially a big X-Games styled event where, in the San Diego case, there would be 80 contestants in teams of 4 who would compete in various challenges of ropes, inflatable obstacles and structures. What wasn’t mentioned was that the theme , outlined on the invitation from Cuervo, includes having people compete on implements intended to illustrate the process of making tequila, right down to the final drink-mixing event.

Sidebar: Check out the 20th Annual Winter Cuervo Games held at Snowshoe Mountain. You’d think in their 20th year they wouldn’t let participants go head first down a snowy hill straight towards four trees – but hey, they did have a guy standing there drink in hand to help them.

The primary promoter Denise, an employee of an event-consulting firm representing Cuervo Tequila, introduced the event as a well-intentioned effort to drive people to ‘entertainment districts’.  She explained that Cuervo challenges them to promote their liquor in markets that fit their demographic for both their accounts (bars, restaurants and liquor stores selling hard liquor) and their customers.  She said they researched San Diego and thought Pacific Beach was an ‘iconic’ location stating that ‘Cuervo is a perfect fit’ and that ‘Pacific Beach was their first choice’. PB must sell a lot of booze to attract this kind of attention from a major global brand.  The San Diego firm helping co-promote this event would be Professional Events Solutions represented at this meeting by Angela who is a familiar face as her firm is hired regularly by Discover PB for events held in PB, which her company can handle logistics for, with a positive report that 30′ high structures would fit right in, and a thumbs-up attitude. She presented a map of the street which I’ll attach asap.

The proposed plan included many elements such as:

  • Closing down our primary business district Garnet Avenue for one block over a 24-hour period – effectively killing any business vehicle traffic for a full Saturday at minimum. Although the entire games only lasted 8 hours from 2p-10p they needed to close the street the other 16 hours for setup and tear down.
  • The intent to draw an estimated approximate 5-7,000 people. (Guess no one told her that events like this attract throngs of drinkers and that 5-7,000 people on a normal Saturday would be a slow day).
  • All 80 game participants must pre-register on Facebook and are selected by Cuervo to compete. Per Denise, these people would be ‘sequestered in a holding pen’ prior to the games so they ‘would not have access to alcohol before the games’. It was explained that they were adamant about making it a non-alcohol event since it was being broadcast live (see below). My guess is insurance rates are pretty high for drunk people on 30′ high structures.
  • The event would be broadcast live over Internet TV to an approximate 100,000 people.  Think of that, another 100k people learning about our world-class alcohol-centric reputation – in an event sponsored by an alcohol company that doesn’t want viewers to get the impression that the games involve alcohol?
  • The event would be open to all ages. Read: X-Game-type elements, which were styled for young teens though young adults. As described in the above Cuervo invitation, this event would be promoting the source, manufacture and use of tequila – in a PB street block with a good number of bars who also serve on patios – and in one case ignore city signage laws with impunity (thanks Cabo). Think of the Cuervo Tequila signage, on top of all the other tacky booze signage on Garnet, the lessons on the history and manufacture of tequila, the impressions Cuervo Tequila could make on our children.  Amazingly, the first city in this 20-city tour, starting Saturday in Orlando, is 21 and up but, for San Diego’s Pacific Beach they pitch an all-ages event?

One local non-alcohol business owner asked, to help make it ‘super-clear’ (which a bar owner then mimicked ‘it was already ‘super-clear’), that the purpose of these ‘games’ was to promote liquor to bar and restaurant owners and their patrons. He also emphasized that we should all ‘follow the money’ – alluding to the only rationale for this event vs. the intent to ‘promote the entertainment district’. Denise confirmed this statement by saying ‘Our mission is to create a buzz (sic) in Pacific Beach. This is a marketing platform for Jose Cuervo.” Funny but, fittingly accurate statement. If it’s ‘super-clear’ to the bar owner, the promoter is saying it’s so – why would we invite a ‘community event’ into Pacific Beach. All this is is a glorified advertising campaign at our community’s expense (see block-party for long history of PB events).

When asked how the costs the Pacific Beach businesses and community would be mitigated, Denise said that ‘no other community (around the country) has asked for anything’. She emphasized that it was a free event – seemingly suggesting we should be grateful for the exposure? Denise also reminded us that “We (Cuervo) are giving a unique experience to energize our accounts and drive business to these accounts.” So, they do a major advertising campaign to sell more liquor to their accounts and the PB community pays the social and environmental costs? Not a bad deal for Cuervo Tequila.

One PB Planning committee SEC alternate-representative presented that alcohol related crime rates are off the charts in PB – nearly 20 times the citywide average in the related census-tract alone, PB DUI arrests are well over 600 annually, the majority of DUI arrests in PB are from non-PB residents – while suggesting they all drive home throughout the city at all hours of the night, putting many more people in danger. Several times during this few-minute comment the multi-bar owner groaned, interrupted, and was clearly annoyed – saying something to the effect that  ‘we don’t need to hear all this again’.

Someone suggested that perhaps a donation to a non-profit would help. I tongue-in-cheek suggested perhaps funds be donated to Alcoholics Anonymous (as my initial thoughts wonder how many of their members arrived to their first meeting after drinking excessively). One bar owner opined saying that AA didn’t take outside donations. Denise then suggested that perhaps the RADD program (a designated driver initiative funded by major music celebrities) would be a good fit – pointing to their poster. I was surprised this was suggested so late in the discussion by Denise because it appeared to me it was a planned offer to be made along the way as a bargaining chip to the community. Denise turned, literally pointing to the RADD poster in the Discover PB offices, and suggested them.  I wasn’t very supportive of this idea because from what I understand from the many experts I’ve spoken with and researched on my own over the last five years, that promoting designated-driving programs ultimately promotes heavier drinking by the passengers and from my recollections in other research, most designated drivers end up drinking by the end of the night anyway. An ironic offer from a company not wanting to appear to promote alcohol – to then offer to help fund a drunk-driver mitigation program. Denise suggested that perhaps a donation could be made to MADD. I again find it ironic that a liquor company would want to donate to a group that helps survivors of people who drank liquor, got behind the wheel of their car and maimed or murdered (they’re not accidents in my mind).

Other ideas were then batted around including one suggestion that we secure our hopeful 2010 Christmas parade costs, in part or whole, for a thumbs up on the event. Or, the PB Town Council would be another good fit. I’m a fanatical parade-lover, 100% pro-Town Council, love and support the efforts by MADD as well as our local law and fire-rescue departments. However, I’m not sure any of those groups would be ok accepting funds from a company promoting their products to our children, helping a community drink more of their brand and promoting a lifestyle of fun and games in a community where excess, assaults and drunk-driving murders and related-‘accidents’ are rampant. I personally see this as pure insanity. What next, a Mother’s Day parade for a St. Patrick’s Day parade?

The Neighborhood Watch Captain for the entire PB community questioned how parking and litter issues would be mitigated. Denise suggested those wouldn’t be an issue because they would clean up and parking wouldn’t be too hugely affected because again, she was ‘estimating a crowd of 5,000 over the entire day’.

To tell you the truth the whole presentation, the motion to vote down and related comments by bar owners and their supporters including DiscoverPB promoting their overriding interest in the good of the community, made me nauseous. The exchange sounded staged but, that’s me. It was referred to by both bar owners present that while not being suitable as it was presented in it’s current form — with its current promotional elements  (you know, the keg throwing thing), the implication was another approach might work. It was as if the bar owners and Discover PB intend to coach Cuervo on how to better approach our community or the city without this recommendation to pitch their program.

After the event Cuervo’s Denise graciously offered her hand and appreciated the concerns I mentioned. I certainly hope no one reads in this post that she did not do a professional job or was somehow inconsiderate of our community needs. Nothing could be further from the truth as she was kind, professional and listened intently. The trouble Denise and Cuervo Tequila, or any alcohol manufacturer or promoter, are going to face in Pacific Beach is that there is at the very least, one very dedicated person who will not stand by idly and watch our community be bought and sold by alcohol interests any longer. I’m over it. We have far too many alcohol-related crimes and community-abuse issues and I will not tolerate this practice of abusing my sensibilities without resistance.

Personally? I want to end up one day saying that I did everything I could to help make Pacific Beach, San Diego and California a more safe place because of the work I was able to help do. I most likely stand for many other people as well but, they can say so as they choose.

If you’re a candidate-city for the Cuervo Games I’d recommend taking a hard look at their efforts. In my limited experience, this is an unprecedented attempt by a major liquor company to spend their hundreds of thousands (at minimum for a 20-city tour) promoting their product in a game-like environment – and in our case most irritatingly, right along with school aged children. More worrisome is all the preliminary and secondary tequila promotions that Cuervo will most likely launch in conjunction with this effort in the bars. Lasting effects for suffering communities – what vision.

BOO alcohol promoters that knowingly peddle their ‘refreshments’ to communities with outrageous levels of alcohol-related problems, crimes including record drunk driving arrests and to youth!

Jerry

p.s. The statement of the night? The Chair of the Special Events Committee reminded the committee, and we residential visitors,  that we should not repeat statements during the public-comment discussion period because “we’re all intelligent”. In my humble opinion intelligent people would want to hear supportive statements. Intelligent people would also see that Pacific Beach is entirely out of balance – weighed down by the alcohol businesses strangling our community while their patrons cause enormous damage to property, life and limb of many innocent victims and their loved ones.

Meanwhile,  there are currently four additional brand new liquor licenses on the books under review, several bars are expanding or have recently expanded significantly, effectively doubling their capacity. The two bar owners at this meeting apparently now jointly own a brand new bar (the old Tropicoso) and one of them recently roughly double his bar space. That’s equivalent to adding another licensee in my mind. On top of it all there over a dozen other application-modifications under consideration.

Alcohol Culture in PB, Commentary, Special Events
5 Comments to “Pacific Beach – San Diego Votes No to Cuervo Games”
  1. PB JIM says:

    By the way, Tequila is not commonly known as a drink of choice for responsible drinkers.

  2. PB JIM says:

    I can imagine a community where an event like this could be ok. But not PB. It’s a matter of balance. The community is way out of balance. The BID should be named the Bar Improvement District. We have alcohol games in PB going on all the time. We have pub crawls almost every weekend, we have beer pong and beer golf, and slosh ball and sail bay flotillas, etc. The PB business district is being marketed primarily for dinking. Little Italy BID will not allow a bar to come there. We have 1 license for every 200 people and more coming. We generate 18% of the DUIs in the city with a population of 4%. What is wrong with this picture. The good operators say they don’t support the bad operators but they also don’t support the community having influence on the direction the community is heading regarding alcohol policy.

  3. pbSpirits says:

    I’m with you 100% Jackie. The sponsor isn’t the issue as much as it is throwing fuel on a raging fire.

  4. Firefeather says:

    Go Jerry! I am with you! And, while you are at it, you might want to ask the bar owners what THEY are contributing to the community! I will continue to ask this question. Perhaps we can figure out what that is. If it is funding the Christmas Parade, then how about funding some street cleaning and some sidewalk washing? One has to wonder where the conflict of interest is on all of this….

  5. jackie says:

    Its sad that people think that its all about alcohol but not just about a fun time for patrons by the beach just because its sponsored by Cuervo. Maybe the author of this article should use your voice for something more meaningful ? you are well written

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