This summer, you won’t hear sizzling grills and sloshing coolers in the sprawling gravel parking lots that surround Jiffy Lube Live. Tailgating has been banned at the 25,000-capacity venue in Bristow that’s owned and operated by concert-promotion behemoth Live Nation.
That means no tents, no picnics and no alcohol will be allowed in the lots before hotly anticipated concerts from Toby Keith, Lil Wayne, Jimmy Buffett and others. The venue’s general manager, Matt Rogers, said the new policy is an effort to stem drunken driving, which, in the past two years, has taken four lives after concerts at Jiffy Lube Live.
“The safety of the fans is of paramount importance and we have an ongoing commitment to work with the local police department on all shows to ensure a safe environment for all of our fans,” Rogers said in an e-mail. “As always, we welcome all feedback and comments from our fans.”
Judging from an eruption of angry comments on Jiffy Lube Live’s Facebook page, that feedback amounts to a backlash. Many fans say they’ll boycott the venue this summer — which can’t be good news for Live Nation after summer-concert ticket sales plunged 12 percent last year nationwide. Jiffy Lube Live, which changed its name from Nissan Pavilion a year ago, is already infamous to any music fan who has endured that rush-hour slog into Northern Virginia’s farmlands.
Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Jiffy Lube Live’s main competitor, has a similar policy that bans open containers outside the venue. FedEx Field, on the other hand, allows tailgating at Washington Redskins games and concerts.
Rogers said Jiffy Lube Live banned pre-concert gatherings after consulting with area residents and police.
“It’s their decision,” said Sgt. Kim Chinn of the Prince William County police. “We support their policy, certainly. We want to keep the people safe.”
Chinn made the “no tolerance” policy clear: Anyone spotted drinking alcohol in the parking lot will be asked to stop. Anyone spotted drinking a second time will be escorted from the venue and issued a notice of trespass, banning him from the grounds.
Rogers said the policy was posted on Jiffy Lube Live’s Web site months ago, before tickets for the season went on sale. But because most fans wait for weather to get warm before they buy ice for their coolers, the controversy is just now starting to flare.
There are other changes, too. Parking lots will open later than in the past, generally one hour before the venue’s doors open. (Rogers encourages fans to call Jiffy Lube Live the week of a show to confirm times, which are subject to change.)
The new parking rules are expected to create greater traffic snarls — for which, Rogers said, the venue will bring in additional police and parking staff members.
“It’s probably going to be an issue for the first concert or two,” Chinn said.
Jiffy Lube Live’s summer season opens Saturday with a Jason Aldean concert sponsored by country radio station WMZQ (98.7 FM). But the new policy will be put to the ultimate test Aug. 27, when Buffett is scheduled to perform. His fans are tailgaters personified — and they aren’t pleased.
“Personally, most of us thought that it really sucked,” said Peter Chewning, president of the Washington Area Parrot Head Club, an organization of die-hard Buffett fans. He said members are torn over whether to boycott the concert, mainly because many have already purchased club-level seats.
On Facebook, some fans accused Jiffy Lube Live of implementing the policy in hopes of boosting concession sales inside the venue, where beer is considerably more pricey than a store-bought six-pack of PBR. Others wondered whether the policy would increase drunken driving because fans would be chugging throughout the concert instead of beforehand.
“The obvious point of the policy is to make more money on alcohol inside the concert,” one fan fumed on Facebook.“I hope every artist decides to have their concerts elsewhere.”
When asked whether concessions had anything to do with the tailgate ban, Rogers cited Virginia law, which prohibits drinking in public and public intoxication.
And were policies about alcohol sales inside the venue being altered to tamp down drunken driving?
“There are no additional policy changes at this point,” Rogers wrote.