Vail Daily editorial: A loss for Vail
It was disheartening to hear recently that the annual Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival is moving to Breckenridge next year.
The festival was well established in its home at the Vail Cascade, using the large space usually occupied by tennis courts, and was a popular event for local and visiting beer lovers.
Then the Cascade changed ownership to the Los Angeles-based Laurus Corp. After months of research and planning, both before and after the sale, the new owners decided to move the Cascade into a higher rung on Vail’s economic ladder and have launched a $35 million renovation project.
In a March interview, Laurus CEO Phil Cyburt made a convincing case that Vail could use another high-end hotel and said his company plans to use the Cascade’s ample meeting space to attract higher-end group business.
Time will tell if Laurus made the right call.
For now, though, Big Beers organizers saw relatively quickly that Laurus’ plans don’t mesh with the festival’s business model, particularly when it comes to providing relatively affordable lodging for those who come to the seminars and tastings.
Big Beers main organizer Laura Lodge isn’t happy about moving the festival but has said there simply isn’t a comparable space to the Cascade in the rest of Vail. So Breckenridge it is.
This isn’t an indictment of Laurus by any means — the company is working on a plan that will benefit both the company and the town if it succeeds.
But the loss of Big Beers does point out a need in Vail. While the town has wrestled for years with the idea of a town-supported conference center, there may be a need for some kind of publicly supported space that can accommodate gatherings of several hundred people.
Town officials are now working to develop ideas for some kind of public space.
Given the failure of a conference center effort about a decade ago — costs quickly escalated far past the ability of a since-repealed lodging tax to pay the bill — people in Vail are being very careful about what they might call such a facility. At the moment, the currently favored term is an “educational/arts” center.
Big Beers is probably gone for good, and that’s a loss for the valley. But building a home for events and festivals that isn’t dependent on an evolving market might mean the next home-grown festival can find true long-term success in Vail.