Will Jiffy Lube Live’s new tailgate policy make the roads safer or just shift the problems?

Thinking out loud here…the comments are open if you want to weigh in…

Northern Virginia concert venue Jiffy Lube Live (formerly Nissan Pavilion) has banned tailgating in their parking lot, in “an effort to stem drunken driving, which, in the past two years, has taken four lives after concerts,” according to an article by Chris Richards in The Washington Post.

As the Post article shows, some people aren’t happy about this policy and that’s understandable. Tailgating, and the excessive drinking that can come with it in some cases, is a huge part of concert culture for numbers of people. Or others like to arrive before the bulk of the traffic, to ensure they don’t miss any of the show, and want to responsibly enjoy food and drinks while they wait for the venue gates to open. And some concert-goers that tailgate don’t get so out of control that they can’t drive home, while others bring a designated driver or hire a bus/limo/etc. There are no doubt a lot of people upset that these various tailgate experiences are being taken away from them.

It’s also completely understandable and commendable that Jiffy Lube Live is interested in making the roads after their shows safer and this new policy by the Live Nation-owned venue could cut down on the amount of alcohol people consume between the time they arrive in the parking lot and when they head into a show. While that might lead to fewer people heading onto the road drunk after the show, it seems it could also cause at least two other things to happen:

  1. Knowing they can’t drink in the parking lot, some people might consume more before they get in their car to head to the venue for the show, which would just mean more drunk drivers on the road at a different time of day. Another way to put it: people will pre-game before they drive to the venue, rather than tailgate in the parking lot.
  2. Unable to drink in the parking lot, people might consume more once inside the venue. And any patron taking a catch-up approach inside the show because they couldn’t arrive early and tailgate would be drinking more alcohol closer to the time they’ll be getting into their cars to drive home—a let me have a few drinks at the tailgate and then sober-up inside the show technique no longer works as well. The Richards article mentions “chugging throughout the concert instead of beforehand” being a concern of some posters to the Jiffy Lube Live Facebook page. It’s also at least worth noting, as a Facebook fan in the Post article and many others have pointed out, that Live Nation benefits financially if beer sales in the venue rise because people can no longer get away with drinking in the parking lot.

I’d love to see any research that shows whether or not tailgating-bans lead to less drinking or if it just shifts where and when that drinking takes place (please email me or post comment if you know of anything like this).

The Post article also says, “Parking lots will open later than in the past, generally one hour before the venue’s doors open.” As someone who usually avoids Jiffy Lube Live because of the traffic nightmares that already exist there, I cringe thinking about what effect this narrower window could have on those trying to get into the venue or on non show-goers sitting in rush hour traffic.

Without seeing any research, it’s hard to tell if a tailgate ban really will result in fewer drunk drivers on the road for Jiffy Lube Live shows when you factor in shifts in when and where the drinking is done and travel both to and from the show. But as the debate rages on about the policies of a concert pavilion located 20 miles from the nearest Metro stop, this whole thing does strike me as one more reason to build venues like this closer to mass transit.

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