There are always a lot of reasons to praise and criticize the Holiday Ale Fest, and this year, the steep entrance fee was the number one target. Personally, I don't mind the cost ($25 bucks gets you in with a mug and eight tokens; essentially half the price is an entry fee). Once you'd paid up, you could come back with your mug and buy more tickets at the usual price of $1 a pop. This had two effects: 1) it depressed attendance a bit on the two days I was there, making it a far more pleasant place to be than in past years; 2) it rewarded people who sampled broadly and came back a time or two--because the more samples you tried, the lower the per-pour price became. All cool so far.
But they also charged designated drivers $5 to get in the door, which is itself a stupid disincentive to any Samaritan good enough to volunteer to chauffeur. But worse, yesterday a pregnant friend of mine and a designated driver begrudgingly agreed to the usurious entry fee on the promise of soda. They got there at 11 am--i.e., opening. Soda? Nada--they'd long run out. But thanks for the five bucks--have a great time!
It's the kind of unforced error that permanently turns people off fests, and one I really, really hope HAF avoids repeating. And come on, guys, let the drivers in for free.