Mikey, Kate, Sean, and Hannah discuss the pros and cons mixing booze and boos
This blog is based on Episode 134 of the ScareTrack podcast in which several of us were in the studio talking about alcohol or no alcohol at scare attractions. With me for the discussion were Miss Kate Monroe; Sean, the Boy Wonder; and my wife, Hannah.
First, I want to mention that if you’re new to the show, we do three different types of episodes on the ScareTack podcast. We do our on-location reviews, where we go to scare attractions and give you on-location audio; we have our interview episodes, where we’ll get someone from the scare world and interview them here on the show; and we also have episodes where we discuss a topic, theme, or anything to do with scares, mazes, haunted houses, immersive theater, and that kind of thing. So, we tried to get everyone here for this discussion, but, unfortunately, Martin couldn’t make it.
The ScareTrack Instagram Poll
So, the four of us talked about making beer, booze, and wine available at scare attractions. We put a post on our Instagram page, our Facebook page, Twitter, and all our social media, asking, “Should we have alcohol at scare attractions—yes or no?” We did a poll for 24 hours on Instagram, and it was 52% yes and 48% no. That’s pretty damn close—as close as Brexit. That’s what gave me the idea to get the hosts in the studio to share their thoughts on this issue—whether having alcohol is right or wrong, how much you should have, whether you should get absolutely wasted, or if you should be a complete teetotaler.
I first asked Hannah, our resident alcoholic, what her thoughts were about having alcohol at scare attractions, how should it be monitored, and that sort of thing.
It’s Based on the Location and the Clientele
“I think it’s all very much based on the location and the clientele of the scare attraction,” she said. “You could have a scare attraction that you’re moving around the UK, and there will be different reactions at different places to the idea of having alcohol at scares. That aside, I don’t feel upset when I go to a place that doesn’t have alcohol, but, when they do, I like beer, so, I’m very happy.”
That was a good point. For example, ScreamFest in Burton is a dry site, which totally makes sense because a lot of their clientele are kids. They have a younger audience, a family market, as opposed to somewhere like Scare Kingdom, which has alcohol, but only at the end. You can get wine or beer or whatnot at the end, but you never see kids or families ‘round there.
I next asked Sean for his thoughts about being able to have a drink at a scare attraction.
“I’ve had a drink at a scare attraction, but I’ve never been drunk at a scare event,” he replied. “Well, actually that’s not true. We, as scare enthusiasts, know how to behave, but we don’t always. I passed out during the Eye Show with a contact lens in and nearly died, and that’s why I don’t wear contact lenses now. So, I could say I love it and I hate it. I’m not sure if having alcohol at these events in the UK generates a lot of money and that’s why they do it. I sit very much on the fence. I’ve been in an attraction where assholes have walked through who are drunk, and they should just be kicked out. Then again, I do see the fun side of having a couple of drinks and getting a little bit tipsy. But people need to understand that this isn’t a night out. This is an event for having fun. If people need a drink to have fun, I don’t get it,” he said.
“My idea of an event that has alcohol would be to have a themed bar at the end of the event where you can spend all night and go out on the dance floor,” he continued. “I think it needs to be controlled and monitored at the beginning of the event. Also, if you’re an event that has little security, never serve alcohol. If you’re an event that has quite a lot of security and you’re hot on it, then yeah, serve alcohol and make that extra buck.”
That was a good shout. Let me say here, I’ve been really, really drunk before. I’m not a big drinker, but when I’m really, really drunk, all that’s going to happen between me and you is a big cuddle, and that’s about it. I’m just so friendly, and I’m hugging everyone. I turn into a really nice guy, Hannah turns into a clumsy person, and Kate turns giggly. But it’s mad how there are some people for whom alcohol brings out their worst side, and that’s unfortunate.
“But it’s so unpredictable as to whether they’re going to be at your event or not,” offered Kate.
Exactly, you never know.
Guests Who’ve Been Drinking Can be a Threat to Scare Actors
I asked Kate if she was yea or nay on alcohol at a scare event.
“I don’t drink a lot, so it doesn’t bother me, but I go to attractions with Hannah a lot, who enjoys it, and I appreciate that she enjoys it. However, the first instances that come into my mind when I’m discussing this subject are when I’ve acted in a maze and had the worst time ever. This was somewhere that’s a dry site, so they weren’t serving alcohol, but a group of drunk people came through, and I was terrified. It was horrible to the point where I zoomed out the emergency exit and waited until they left. Also, I’ve been through events as a visitor with groups and there were people in other groups that were drunk. It ruined the whole experience for me. I’m very much with the idea of there being a bar at the end so people still can enjoy a drink and have that kind of night. This issue is, some of these places that aren’t even letting people drink until afterwards are still allowing drunk people in. I’m thinking of Europa Park. I don’t know if the actors are specifically trained for those occasions and know what to do should a group of drunk people come around.”
“I think it’s because the Germans drink more,” said Hannah.
We have quite a good German following on Instagram, because we go to Europa Park. We have following from people in the Netherlands, because we go to Amsterdam Dungeons and whatnot every few years. However, the guys from Germany answered “no” about alcohol, and these are people who work at European theme parks.
“That’s quite interesting,” said Sean, “because we’re talking about Europa Park in general and not Germany as a whole, but alcohol is quite a prominent thing.”
Kate chimed in with, “Looking at it a different way, because it’s allowed and not a taboo thing to be drunk, is it a case of people not trying to be rebellious and wanting to behave, or is it a case of the security being fully aware there’s going to be drunk people on site and they can spot them a mile off before they ruin anything for anyone? Is it because these other attractions, where they don’t allow drinking, aren’t prepared for that situation, so you find the pre-drinkers getting away with being drunk?”
“I think they’re on it because they have security,” said Sean.
“At Europa Park and the German parks where alcohol is accepted and allowed, you pay premium prices to have spirits, whereas a beer is dirt cheap,” said Hannah. “A beer is about three Euros, but a vodka is something like nine Euros. No one in the UK would pay 10 pounds for a vodka Coke. Maybe that premium monetization of spirits is what the UK needs, because you can walk in scare attractions and buy a spirit and a mixer for about four pounds.”
Allowing Alcohol Only at Certain Places at the Event
Hannah made a good point. Price may have something to do with it as well. There are a few different ways of doing alcohol that we’ve seen by going to lots of events. There are completely dry sites with no alcohol whatsoever, and there are places that have a bar throughout the night but only let you have two drinks. Then, you have events like Scare Kingdom and Dr. Frights that only let you into the bar at the end of the night, which seems to work really well.
“I’ve seen both sides,” said Sean. “I’ve been an attraction owner at a pub where they let drunk people in. They totally ruined my attraction, and I could have cried. I had tears welling up in my eyes because they totally destroyed one scene where there were heads hanging down. It was awful. They pulled the heads down and were throwing them around. I could have strangled them. I was also angry they were let through. That was out of my control. For a long time, I was very against alcohol-infused people going through an attraction. However, it comes down to the person, because some people can handle it and some people can’t.”
“It All Depends on the Person”
I agreed with Sean. If I go to an attraction and have a drink, it never occurs to me to smash the place up, get aggressive, get into an argument, or attack the actors. It all depends on the person. People go through our attraction and pull shit down who aren’t drunk. I hate it when people blame their behavior on alcohol. Very rarely do I think alcohol totally changes people, and I think it’s used as an excuse: “Yeah, I ripped the place apart, but it was because I was drunk.” No, it’s because you’re an absolute dick, mate. That’s why.
Comments from Respondents to the Instagram Poll
Anyway, back to our Instagram poll. Dennis from Breukelen, in the Netherlands, works with ScareMe and runs the Scare Manager website. We asked his opinion about alcohol at scare attractions, and he said, “Yes, but only responsibly. Over-drinking causes a lot of problems. Because of drugs and alcohol, some events have hired temporary police officers on site in the Netherlands.”
We’re always thinking, “the stupid British public, the stupid British public,” but that’s not it. It’s worldwide. I know that Halloween Horror Nights had a big issue in Orlando with drunks, and I think that’s now a dry site.
I asked Kate to share a response from another person who commented in our poll.
“Mark Lofthouse, whom we interviewed not too long ago, said, ‘Yes, as long as it’s moderated. It all depends on the audience and clientele.’ So, for him, it depends on the mentality of the target demographic toward alcohol. If it’s a binge-drinking mentality, alcohol should be used cautiously, whereas if alcohol is seen by the clientele as the means of a fun time, it’s fine,” Kate reported.
I agree. If you have people at an event with alcohol who just turned 18, they might be thinking, “Drink, drink, drink,” whereas an older group would be thinking, “It would be nice to have a wine in this queue line.”
“What I really liked when we went to Frightmare was their Prosecco bar,” said Hannah. “Kids aren’t going to think, ‘Let’s get hammered on Prosecco!’ because that’s not what it’s for. So, I’ll read the next comment. Christina is an actor from Knott’s Scary Farm, and she says, ‘That’s a hard question, because, as a scare actor, I hate people who are drunk. Some of them are fun to mess with, but some of them are too much. They want to touch me and get aggressive. As a guest, having a drink can be fun. So, I say, limit the drinks to two per person for the night. Alcohol is a huge profit for events, so it’s a complicated situation and a great question.’ That’s what Christina said.”
“Another idea is to limit drinks at the beginning—maybe give out a wrist band that has a tear-off thing for two drinks—and then guests can drink all they want after the event,” suggested Sean.
“I think they need security on that, too, for the pre-drinkers. That one additional drink can take them over the edge,” said Kate.
“Most scare attractions here have security,” Hannah pointed out. “Security is SIA-badge registered, which means they adhere to the law and don’t let drunk people into a venue, so why is it not the same if the event is afield?”
Hannah’s question reminded me of an attraction we went to last year—which won’t be named—in which they were letting people get hammered in their park. It caused nothing but issues all night.
“That’s what happened with the group that came around and scared me,” said Kate. “We had a warning they were coming through, but I feel they shouldn’t have been allowed in.”
The next person to leave a comment on our poll was Meg Howe, an actor at York Maze Howl-O-Scream. She said, “Drinking at scare events can be really dangerous for actors. When people drink, they can become violent and feel they have more courage than usual, so they threaten actors. After being on the receiving end of threats and abuse from drugged people, I can understand why it’s so awful for people to drink. Although some people under the influence can be scared much easier—which makes the actor’s job much easier—that doesn’t outweigh the abuse that some actors get from drunk punters.”
Meg made a very good point. It’s sometimes fun and easier to scare a drunk person. Going back to pre-drinkers and how that’s such an issue, Erin from the 13th Floor in Denver, Colorado, said, “We’ve been in business 17 years, and this past season was the first year we opened a bar on the property. It was a Dr. Frankenstein’s Laboratory theme, and we actually saw less damage from fights this season than past seasons. We believe this is because patrons would drink here rather than pre-drinking and being drunk on arrival. With the bar on site, we were able to regulate the percentage of alcohol served, which made for higher sales and a more pleasant crowd.”
I thought that was really interesting. For 17 years, this event has been dry and had loads of issues with alcohol. The one year they have alcohol, there are no issues. However, in complete contrast to Erin’s experience was a comment from Dan Thorpe, who’s a member of the ScareTrack Patreon group and works at an event that has a bar open throughout the night. He said, “I’m totally against alcohol at scare events. The abuse and aggression I’ve received as an actor was almost always from drunken customers. The problem is people drink for Dutch courage. Pairing that courage with adrenaline fosters a will to challenge and fight. I’ve seen it far too many times. Some reactions are by chance, but when they come for you three times over and are laughing all the while, they aren’t trying to be funny. They’re trying to intimidate actors for their own thrill.”
So, there you go. Erin said when they had the bar open all night, there were fewer issues, but Dan found more issues with there being a bar. But the Bower Xtreme Scream Park, where Dan works, has only been open two years. Last year they had a two-drink maximum, but this year, there was no limit. I discussed this with Dan on social media, and he said he didn’t really see much of a difference in behavior in the two years. He remarked that if people want to get drunk, they’ll get drunk.
Security Needs to Do Its Job
“I think this isn’t necessarily an issue of whether there’s a bar or not but of keeping an eye out for drunk people by making sure hosts at the front are aware and know whether to let people in and having security fully on it,” said Kate. “Being an actor and knowing you’ve got drunk people coming around is terrifying, especially for a female actor. This issue goes beyond whether to have alcohol or not. It’s about security and training your staff—whether they’re at the front of the attraction or actors or people walking around keeping an eye on everyone. As Mikey pointed out, you get nice drunks or horrible drunks, but you have no predictability of who’s going to turn up at your event.”
Kate was right. It’s more about the infrastructure of the event. A place can have amazing scares, amazing sets, amazing actors, amazing everything, but it’s the infrastructure of the whole event around it that matters. If you’re going to serve alcohol, how many people are you letting in? Are you going to do bag checks? We’ve felt a lot safer, the last couple of years, since there have been bag checks and searches. Lots of people don’t like that, but it makes me feel I’m in a safe little bubble.
The next comment was from Noah Coaster, who said, “For a 13-year-old scream park fan, it doesn’t make a difference to me, but, out of all the parks I’ve been to, the only one I’ve seen drunk people at is Xtreme Scream.”
The next comment was from Allan Higginson, another member of the ScareTrack Patreon group. Allan said, “To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me either way. I was shocked at how extensive the bar area at Tully’s was, though.”
That’s a good point. They’ve put a lot of effort into the bar over the last few years. They’ve got a proper big bar that serves everything, but they don’t let you take alcohol out of that area, and you have to show ID to get in, no matter your age.
“If they’ve been that strict on things, I think they’re going to be on it when there are people doing things against the rules liking bringing alcohol in their bags and pre-drinking,” observed Kate. “If they’re strict about the bar, they’re going to be on it with their security elsewhere.”
And that’s what Tully’s is all about. Their mazes are great—long, and scary—but they’re not going to blow you completely away because their audience is the family or friends having an evening out. Once Hannah accidentally had a can of beer in her handbag, and they confiscated it.
The next comment was from Alex, of the Thorskin podcast. He said, “Alcohol has always made for interesting experiences at the scare park I work at, but having a drink and getting f-ed up isn’t advised, as it ruins everyone’s night.”
Next up was Damien, who posted this comment: “The way Dr. Frights does it is good way. You’re not allowed to enter the bar until you’ve been around the whole event. So, yes, alcohol can be a good thing, a good way to end the night.”
Our last comment was from Ems, who was our first Patreon supporter. Ems said, “As an actor, it does concern me that people can go through events in absolute states. At certain events I’ve worked at, people have managed to sneak drink into the mazes and soak both themselves and actors in alcohol due to poor security and a lack of host presence for everyone involved, while, at the same time, you have to take the time to dry up the mess so people don’t fall over. I think a stamp system, while still going around the mazes, may work. Then, once people have experienced all the mazes, they can drink. However, that only works at events that allow you to enter each attraction once.”
Yes, that’s a good system. There are some events where you’re only allowed to go through the attractions once—ScreamFest, Tully’s Towers, and others. But Thorpe Park Fright Nights, Europa Park, and Halloween Horror Nights allow you to go through multiple times.
“What Ems points out is exactly what I’ve been saying—it comes down to poor security and host presence,” said Kate. “We need to have that infrastructure in place of knowing how to react and how to deal with these things as an actor, as a host, and as security.”
That’s the perfect place to end this rich discussion on alcohol at scare events.