The alcohol-free event also attracted lots and lots of booze.
“The alcohol problem was extreme,” said Whistler RCMP community police officer Warren Tomalty. “There was a huge problem with liquor. You can’t get more of a problem with liquor,” he said. “Everybody thought they could have it and we just kept pouring it out. We dumped out liquor where possible.” Tomalty said officers even joked that if anyone lit a match near some of the snow banks “they would just go poof.”
One village bar was still serving drinks after 4:30 a.m. and RCMP, in an unusual move, physically yanked their licence.
“We took it and they weren’t allowed to serve liquor until they came and talked to the staff sergeant,” said Tomalty. The hours bars could serve drinks until was extend until 4 a.m. Jan. 1. “All the other bars were extremely good and acted in the spirit of things.” Tomalty said he wasn’t at liberty to name the well-known and central establishment but RCMP have filed a report with the liquor licensing control board. A decision will be made by the board whether to suspend the licence for a period of time.
Otherwise, things ran fairly smoothly, said Tomalty. “We had quite a few hiccups but nothing we didn’t know was going to happen. There were the odd fights, a few assaults and one guy got a beer bottle across the head. Someone pulled a knife on him,” said Tomalty. “We are investigating that.”
People did try and crash through the barriers and police lost control of the gates on occasion. He added there were many kids in the crowd and care had to be taken to avoid crushing.
A force of about 70 RCMP officers in total worked to keep order on First Night. Tomalty said an extra contingent of 50 officers was brought in to help and backup came from Squamish later in the evening. A total of 60 revellers spent the night in the drunk tank. The first wave of inebriated trouble makers was shipped to Pemberton holding cells. Other than the assault charge that night, charges for two spousal assaults are pending.
It was also a busy night for the Whistler Fire Department which handled 27 calls in the 26-hour period starting from midnight Dec. 31 through to 2 a.m. Jan. 1.
Tomalty said things in the village started claming down after 4 a.m. RCMP met with bylaws and council representatives for a First Night post-mortem Wednesday. “We have to go over what happened and look at our strengths and weaknesses and start planning for next year,” said Tomalty.
Tourism Whistler did not know, as of Wednesday how many tickets they had sold to the First Night event nor did they have a figure for the number of tickets sold for the Jesse Cook conference centre event.