You don’t have to be a VIP to get a beer or glass of wine at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater any more.
Live Nation officials unveiled Backstage Oasis on Friday night, a new, 2,800-capacity area near the stage where concertgoers of legal drinking age can buy alcoholic beverages for the first time at the amphitheater.
“We want people to have a great concert experience,” said Brian Yost, Live Nation’s president of on-site products for its North American Concerts division. “And we’ve heard for quite a while from our visitors here that they wanted the chance to responsibly enjoy alcohol at a concert.”
Because Live Nation leases Nikon at Jones Beach Theater from the New York State parks department, it is bound by their rules. And for decades, that has meant a strict no-alcohol policy, making the Jones Beach amphitheater the only venue in the massive Live Nation chain where alcohol wasn’t sold.
For decades, theater officials petitioned the state to loosen its regulations, but had no luck. However, in 2012, Live Nation officials set up a committee to address the concerns of the state and other groups about selling alcohol at the amphitheater.
“We are thrilled not just that we got it done, but by the way we got it done,” said Yost, who hopes to use the program at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater as an example for Live Nation venues around the country.
Denna Cohen, victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving from Coram, said that she had been contacted by amphitheater officials off and on for more than 20 years to try to get her support. The current Live Nation plan was the first one she ever approved. “It was never presented in this way,” said Cohen, as she toured the new area with Live Nation officials and Richard Mallow, executive director of MADD New York State. “We’re not against alcohol. We’re against drinking and driving.”
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Alan Ostfield, Live Nation’s president of the North Atlantic region, said that to support the opening of Backstage Oasis, the company has added a designated driver program at the venue, increased bus service through Nassau Inter-County Express to and from the Freeport station of the Long Island Railroad, and contracted with a service that will drive a concertgoer home in his own car if needed.
On opening night before the Barry Gibb show, the Backstage Oasis was only partially full, as concertgoers enjoyed their beers, which included Blue Point from Patchogue, and wines from Port Jefferson. TV monitors showed what was happening onstage for those who wanted to watch from a sofa or enjoy a meal from several local food trucks, as the alcoholic beverages can still only be consumed in the Backstage Oasis area and cannot be taken to the amphitheater seats.
“We wanted it to feel comfortable,” said Yost, adding that the Backstage Oasis will be open for 20 concerts this season and then re-evaluated for next year. “We didn’t want people to feel penalized for wanting to enjoy a drink or feel that they need to hurry up and drink. We wanted it to be a good time.”