Somerset cannabis and music festival earns zoning board OK, still lacks alcohol license

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The Board of Selectmen has still not granted a temporary alcohol license to the company planning to throw a music festival and cannabis cultivation competition in Somerset, tabling the discussion for a second time with just over a week to go before the event.

“The long and short of it is there are things that still have to be done. Time is short with this,” Chair of the board Lorne Lawless said during a board meeting on Wednesday night.

Last week, the CEO of local dispensary Solar Therapeutics, which is planning to hold its Cultivators Cup event in early September, presented a safety plan for the event.

The inaugural Cultivators Cup is being planned for Friday, Sept. 3 and Saturday, Sept. 4. Friday’s portion will be a private VIP award ceremony to announce the winners of the Cultivator’s Cup. Saturday is planned as an all-day music festival to celebrate the competition with performances from a lineup that includes hip hop group Cypress Hill and artists Method Man and Redman. The music festival is a 21+ event, with ticket prices ranging from $99.99 to $420.

Judging for the competition is done ahead of time by delivering cannabis to judges to be consumed off-site.

Last week, selectmen tabled a vote on the temporary license, raising concerns about fire safety and potential over-consumption and saying they wanted more details in the planned to be ironed out first.

On Wednesday, Tom Killoran, an attorney for the company, said organizers were willing to move the event’s end time up from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m. and to end alcohol sales an hour earlier, to decrease the likelihood of noise complaints and lessen the risk of over serving patrons. He also said that, between police details, a private security firm and security workers from Solar Therapeutics, there will likely be around 70 security workers there on Friday, where 500 attendees are expected, and upward of 80 on Saturday for an anticipated crowd of 2,000.

Fire Chief Jamison Barros told the board that, during his most recent visit to the event site on Brayton Point Road, a few loose ends like setting up the entrance gate and securing written permission from Stop & Shop to have an emergency exit open onto their property still remained. He said he was confident in CEO Ed Dow’s assurances that everything would be sorted out before the event, but that he didn’t want to sign off on the safety plan until those tasks were complete.

 

“To Mr. Dow’s credit, everything I have asked for, I have received zero pushback,” Barros said.

Lawless said Police Chief Todd Costa requested last week that the private security company that will work the event provide four pieces of information: copies of necessary business licenses, copies of workers’ training records for things like crowd control and de-escalation, confirmation that employees have been subject to background checks and CORI checks and the name and qualifications for the people who could provide that information.

Costa was not at Wednesday’s meeting, but Selectman Allen Smith said the chief told him earlier that day that he was still waiting on the requested information.

“It’s incredibly frustrating from my standpoint that our town departments are committing considerable resources to help facilitate this event, and the information that they’ve asked for to look out for the interests of Somerset residents and those guests who are visiting Somerset are not being complied with,” he said.

Instead of voting on whether to grant the temporary alcohol license on Wednesday, the board instead opted to schedule a special meeting next Tuesday to discuss it again and vote.

Selectman Kathy Souza said she wants to see the town’s two public safety chiefs sign off on the event before she votes in favor of the license.

“They’re the experts, and when they have a comfort level, I’ll have a comfort level,” she said.

During the meeting, Solar Therapeutics' head of security Mike Allen told the zoning board that he is still working on providing Costa with the requested information, but that assembling training records for all of the private security company's staff was proving difficult, especially with some employees currently working remotely. He confirmed that every employee was given de-escalation and similar training while onboarding for the job, and all are current or former law enforcement.

The zoning board's approval came with several conditions, including that all ticket sales are done at Swansea's Venus De Milo, which is where attendees are required to park for the event, and not at the entrance to the event itself. They also stipulated that Allen must provide at least some of the information Costa requested: a copy of any relevant business licenses, CORI check of all security employees who will be working the event and the name and qualifications of the person providing that information.

“I want this thing to be successful. Safety is paramount, and I want everything to go off as planned," said board member Joe Fingliss Jr. “Another day late is another day Chief Costa can’t properly plan.”

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