Abbotsford beer festival cancelled because organizers can’t get permits

BC Hop Fest couldn’t get a non-farm use permit from the Ministry of Agriculture

A popular Abbotsford beer festival won’t happen this year thanks to strict regulations about the types of events that can be hosted on B.C.’s farmland.

The BC Hop Fest has run in a Sumas Priarie field on Cole Road since 2015, attracting around 1,500 people every year. But its organizer says he has been told he can’t get the necessary permits because it isn’t selling any of the hops grown on site directly to consumers and the event has been deemed too large.

Dwayne Stewart, the co-owner of the BC Hop Company and co-founder of the festival, said the situation shows that rules need to change to better support the province’s hop growers.

“The industry is not seeing the same success as the craft beer industry,” he said, estimating that it has declined by as much as 30 per cent this year.

Stewart said many of B.C.’s growing number of craft breweries don’t buy local hops; the festival, he said, was one way for him to connect and market his hops to brewers.

To hold the event, Stewart needs both an event permit from the city and, crucially, a non-farm-use permit from the Agricultural Land Commission. He can’t get the city permit without the permit from the ALR, and has been told that it won’t be granted.

In the first few years of the event, the city didn’t require Stewart to get a non-farm use permit from the ALC.

The City of Abbotsford was informed last year that the organizers had to have a non-farm-use permit, according to an email from city spokesperson Alex Mitchell. The city needs that ministry approval before it can order to issue its own event permit.

“The City is extremely supportive of special events in our community and has been working closely with the organizers of the BC Hop Festival,” Mitchell wrote.

Last year, Stewart held the festival without a permit, but says he won’t be going that route in 2019.

“Once the question was asked, the answer was given that we don’t qualify for a permit.”

Stewart said something has to change with the regulations to help the local industry. He noted that his festival was cited by a recent list that ranked Abbotsford among the best beer towns in the country.

The event has not previously displaced farming at the site, he said, with the field in question being used to grow hay in past years.

“It’s a farm field,” he said. “We didn’t put down four acres of gravel,” alluding to a parking lot constructed for the Abbotsford Tulip Festival.

The BC Liberals issued a press release Tuesday blaming the situation on the NDP.

“The event organizers have specifically cited provincial government policy as an issue, but the NDP refuses to support this struggling industry,” agriculture co-critic Ian Paton said in a press release.

A provincial spokesperson noted that the BC Hop Fest didn’t apply for a permit and that, had they applied, the ALC would have made a decision. The spokesperson said rules about events were established in 2016 by the previous government.

RELATED: SLIDESHOW: Third annual BC Hop Fest

RELATED: Fruit Beer Festival announced for Abbotsford this summer


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Lock’s Pharmacy celebrated 70 years with free street party in Chilliwack

The party was based on community spirit and giving back, says general manager David Lock

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Aug. 19 to 25

Get a free sneak peek at modern ballet performance in Chilliwack

New ballet @giselle is putting the final touches on its show at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Police ask public’s help locating missing Hope woman

Penelope Leslie Lackey has not contacted her family since mid-June

Rescuers pluck climbers off rock face near Mt. Slesse

Chilliwack SAR team members used long-line suspension to assist climbers

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

VIDEO: Organization’s stolen wheelchair van recovered on backroad near Hope

Wheelchair accessible van is only transportation for some people in Hope area

Officials say 50 Oppenheimer Park residents have agreed to leave, as deadline looms

Residents have been told they must be gone by 6 p.m. on Aug. 21

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

‘Do the right thing,’ implores sister of South Surrey stabbing victim

IHIT confirms male arrested in connection with Paul Prestbakmo’s death no longer in custody

Most Read