Wet Electric party in Huntington Beach denied liquor license

A scene from the stage of Wet Electric dance party in Huntington Beach.
A scene from the stage of Wet Electric dance party in Huntington Beach.
Wet Electric

The state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control today denied a license to sell liquor at this weekend's Wet Electric music festival in Huntington Beach.

“The overarching concern is public safety,'' according to ABC spokesman John Carr. “The plan submitted to ABC did not sufficiently address public safety concerns.''

ABC officials met with event organizers in an attempt to come up with a sufficient safety plan, but, “There just wasn't enough time to coordinate all allied public safety agencies in the area,'' he said. State Parks Sgt. Kevin Pearsall said the festival, which will be held Saturday on a state beach, will go on as planned.

 “Everything is as is. The promoter's already here setting up and everything will go on as planned,'' he said.

Pearsall said State Parks officials were “disappointed'' by the liquor license denial and are concerned the festival will draw angry customers when they find out they cannot buy alcohol.

“I don't think they'll be happy people,'' Pearsall said. “In the end it became too political, so that is a big aspect of what's going on. It is unfortunate.''

Steve Thacher, president of event organizer Premiere Media Group, did not respond to several messages for comment.

Huntington Beach police still plan to step up patrols around the festival regardless of the ABC decision, city spokeswoman Laurie Frymire said.

An Orange County judge Thursday rejected a bid by Huntington Beach officials to stop the oceanfront music festival from being held. Judge Jamoa Moberly said the city could have acted sooner in its effort to halt the event, noting that Huntington Beach officials knew about the event as early as April.

Attorney Dan Ohl, representing the city, argued the event would violate the city's zoning laws for the area, but the judge sided with attorneys for the state, who argued the part of the beach where the event is planned falls within the state's jurisdiction.

Huntington Beach fell victim to violence in late July when a riot broke out at the end of the U.S. Open of Surfing event. During that riot, thousands of people took to the streets and broke store windows, looted businesses and overturned portable toilets. Six people were arrested, with police posting photos and videos online in hopes of tracking down suspects.

City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said the riot did not motivate the city's response to the Wet Electric event. The legal tussle represented a breakdown in communication between the state and city that needs to be improved, McGrath said.

The state will receive $90,000 from the party's organizer, Premiere Media Group, but much of that will go toward expenses with little profit, according to Orange County District Superintendent Ketterer said.

State officials are more interested in “reaching a demographic we haven't reached,'' referring to the crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 young adults expected to attend, Ketterer said.

The event, however, has so far only sold about 3,800 tickets, Pearsall said.

The state will have 26 officers patrolling the event. Premiere Media Group has also hired about 90 security guards, Thacher said Thursday.

The event's promoter also has contracted with a taxi company and chartered buses to help get revelers home safely, Ketterer and Thacher said. Also, there will be places for party-goers to park their bicycles if they ride to the festival..

Premiere started Wet Electric at the now-shuttered Wild Rivers Waterpark in Irvine in 2010, but organizers have been moving the festival around to various locations since then, Thacher said. The organizer has had 10 concerts without any incidents, he added.

The festival will include electronic music, zip-line rides and other attractions for about nine hours until 9 p.m. Saturday.