I just got off the phone with Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman, who confirmed for me rumors that there will, indeed, be an admission fee to the Pride Festival in Lee Park this year after the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in September. Admission to the parade will still be free.
Doughman said the park will be fenced in for the festival, and there will be a $5 charge to enter the park for the event that traditionally winds up Dallas’ LGBT Pride celebration. This and other changes were prompted, he said, by changes in requirements imposed by the city and by “polite warnings” from Dallas police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that drinking during the event was getting seriously out of hand. But Doughman also acknowledged that the admission fee is intended to increase revenue, too.
“Being able to donate proceeds back to our beneficiary organizations has always been a major focus of the parade. But ever since the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11, and the security requirements have gone up, the money we are able to donate back to our beneficiaries has been dwindling,” Doughman said. “We used to be able to donate $20,000 to $25,000, and we had three or four beneficiaries. Now, we’re lucky if we have $7,500 or $8,000 to give back to our one beneficiary [Youth First Texas].”
Doughman the other main reason for fencing in the park and charging admission is to give parade organizers better control over the crowd. That’s the same reason the Tavern Guild has chosen this year to prohibit event participants from bringing in coolers and outside alcohol. Glass containers of all kinds are also banned.
“The last two or three years, it’s gotten really bad” in terms of celebration attendees drinking to excess and ending up being a danger to themselves and others, Doughman said. “The Dallas police officers have been very kind about the way they have handled it, but we have been warned by the police and by TABC, and we had to be proactive in doing something to address the issue. It is a huge liability for us.”
He said that even though hard liquor has always been prohibited, attendees have become more brazen about ignoring that ban. “That’s a licensing issue. We only have a license for beer at the celebration, no hard liquor. If TABC were to do a sweep through there and find hard liquor, then we would be liable. They would take away our license and the city would never give us another permit for the parade or the celebration. That would be the end of Dallas Pride,” Doughman said.
Doughman said the last thing organizers want to do is take all the fun out of the annual Pride celebration, and said that those who pay the $5 fee to attend the celebration in the park will get to see “bigger-name entertainment” than in past years, as well as have access to improved food service.
“We don’t want to take the fun out of things, but we have to do what we have to do to make sure this is a safe event and to make sure that we follow the rules and make enough money to pay our costs and still have money for our beneficiary,” Doughman said.