Revokn': ABC hammers Lockn’ with harshest penalty

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The Virginia Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control alleges numerous instances of drug use among the 25,000 attendees at the Lockn' Music Festival. Photo: Tom Daly The Virginia Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control alleges numerous instances of drug use among the 25,000 attendees at the Lockn' Music Festival. Photo: Tom Daly

More than two months after hearing evidence regarding violations at last year’s Lockn’ Music Festival, the Virginia Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control has issued a ruling in the case, and it’s bad news for the Nelson County event’s organizers.

“…only one penalty is appropriate,” wrote ABC hearing officer Clara A. Williamson, as she recommended the harshest possible penalty against the young festival: revocation of its liquor license. As previously reported, despite the revocation ruling, this year’s event featuring Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Willie Nelson and other big name acts will go on with liquor sales unhindered during the appeals process.

The ruling, issued July 30, recaps the highlights of the case: that undercover ABC agents reported witnessing at least 100 incidents of drug use and photographed or videotaped at least nine; that the 23-acre licensed area was insufficiently lit; and that multiple ABC agents videotaped a topless woman sunbathing in the licensed area. The complaint alleged that neither festival organizers nor Lockn’s concessionaire, Best Beverage Catering, took sufficient action when notified of alleged violations occurring among the 25,000 festival attendees. Williamson cited testimony from ABC Special Agent Matthew Layman, that the “blatant” drug use was “the highest incidence of drug use he’d ever seen in his career” and that numerous of Lockn’s hired security guards and festival staffers witnessed the drug use and did nothing.

Williamson recounts one incident videotaped by agents in which three men passed around a marijuana pipe while two female security guards stood approximately seven feet away. “As the wind blew toward them, they could be seen sniffing it,” Williamson wrote. “However they made no effort to investigate or stop this activity.”

ABC agents’ accounts of the festival conflicted with those of the festival organizers, a security consultant and even Nelson County Sheriff David Brooks, who described the event as having “little to no problems” in a press release the day after last year’s festival concluded. Unlike ABC agents, who were at the festival undercover because they feared for their safety, according to testimony, Nelson Sheriff’s deputies made seven felony arrests without incident and confiscated between $7,000 and $10,000.

Williamson substantiated the drug use and insufficient lighting charges but dismissed a third charge regarding the topless woman, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that festival organizers were aware of that illegal behavior.

“We are absolutely appealing,” said Lockn’ organizer Dave Frey, who explained that the ABC’s full four-person board has 30 days to affirm or overturn Williamson’s revocation recommendation. If the board upholds the revocation, Frey said the appeal will leave the agency’s purview and become a civil matter heard in circuit court, most likely, said Frey, in Nelson County.

Frey said that regardless of the liquor license outcome, the festival is committed to remaining in Nelson. In fact, they’ve purchased a 385-acre property just south of the 5,000-acre Oak Ridge estate where the festival is held. The purchase of that land, with its large road frontage, Frey said, will streamline traffic entering and exiting the event and means those who are camping out will be within 5/8 a mile of the stages—a “game changer” from last year when the most remote sites were more than a two mile journey.

And new land wasn’t the only news Frey shared. Lockn’ organizers are planning a second music festival, this one featuring big name country music acts, for next year.

As for the upcoming event, Frey said he’s not worried about conflict with ABC  particularly since Special Agent Layman will not be there.

“We have a different agent who’s been helpful and thoughtful and is kind of pretending like all this stuff isn’t happening,” said Frey, noting that he and other Lockn’ staffers are working with local law enforcement to ensure a safe and law-abiding event. “We’re not anticipating issues,” he said. “We don’t encourage anybody to break any laws.”

Lockn’ Music Festival is slated for September 4-7.

Story updated with Dave Frey interview Friday, Aug. 1 at 4:37pm

  • ABC hater

    Wow, what’s up ABC Squares!! It’s not like it’s a school or hospital or church or federal court building or the Downtown Mall; it’s a music festival! Why do you think people go?? Get a real jobs, ABC turkeys.

  • terrapin

    As long as they apply the same standards to the NASCAR race that happens nearby on the same weekend. Might want to focus on that event instead this year, then you’d earn more penalty $$$$.

  • Thomas Kelo

    “multiple ABC agents videotaped a topless woman sunbathing in the licensed area”

    I bet they did. By the way, shouldn’t we be outraged that in 2014 this is still a crime?

  • RandomThoughts

    Time to deal the ABC a harsh penalty .

    Something like dissolving the unnecessary disservice they provide the citizen of Virginia.

    Six or seven armed idiots sitting around on easy over-time has went on long enough.

  • Barndawg

    Meanwhile in Boston – a couple dozen hospitalized and some rapes reported at a Keith urban show. But hey – that’s rednecks and beer, right??

    • Hamtron King

      Ha right? No violent crime or anything like that happens, and they are up in arms about some people smoking weed and a set of tits. What a joke, LEO’s like this just need to find something better to do with their time.

      • jcwolf1975

        Their abc agents, it makes their little peckers hard to catch people having fun.

  • Hamtron King

    Jesus H Christ, WTF did they think was gonna happen? Its a MUSIC FESTIVAL, where people have unhindered fun and sure as shit don’t want to think about undercover cops walking around trying to fuck it up for everyone else. A “Marijuana Pipe”, fucking seriously? this country’s LEO’s need to get with the fucking times and lay off weed. As long as nothing bad happens and it all stays contained within the festival grounds, there should be no problem.. No longer upset about not going, you KNOW they are gonna CRACK THE FUCK DOWN after this. Stay away from this fest now, just like bonnaroo.

  • 2011Custer

    Absolutely shameful..want to do something? Write your state reps and Governor..put pressure on them. Lockn was an incredible event with 25000 people..no rioting..no violence..no problems to society…#FocusOnRealProblems

  • Bluedog

    The Virginia ABC is Out of Control! Like nobody ever smoked dope at a Rock Concert. Odd timing too … This revoke is nothing more than PAYBACK by the local ABC office in the wake of the Elizabeth Daly settlement. The Commonwealth has settled the $40 million lawsuit filed by University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly for $212,500, officials announced late Wednesday. Next day… ABC Press Release!

  • Kevin

    So 100 incidents out of 25,000 people or .004% were witnessed. I would guess that most of those “incidents” were marijuana. I attended and did not hear of any issues from those crazy reefer smokers. According to this article, http://www.newsadvance.com/nelson_county_times/news/article_7aaf6058-2077-11e3-bd47-0019bb30f31a.html, 1.6 million dollars in tax revenue was raised by Nelson County during last years festival. Now, from what I could see, Nelson county doesn’t have a lot going for it….in the line of business. Maybe Lockn should take their festival and Tax dollars somewhere else!

  • ukulele dontplaynogames

    REALLY ABC? PEOPLE ARE DIEING IN BAGHDAD AND SYRIA AND THERE IS STARVATION IN AFRICA, AND MONSANTO IS POISONING ALL OF US SLOWLY, AND THE CURE FOR FUXKING CANCER IS ILLEGAL IN MOST STATES AND YOUR WORRIED ABOUT YOUR SAFTEY AT A HAPPY HIPPIE FESTIVAL? REAAAALLLY?

  • Earthman

    Are these the same ABC cops that practically beat up a couple of young girls for buying sparkling water in the same town, what was that last year maybe.

  • VAHAWK

    Are these are the same ABC agents that man handled some girl for buy sparkling water in C-ville? MORONS.

  • Leon Wilkeson

    Anyone have any information on this “Agent Matthew Layman”? Sounds like the kind of guy who is a closeted alcoholic, wife-beating, child abusing repressed douche bag to me.
    Layman is the kind of guy who gets off the stand, goes home, pulls the curtains, fixes a giant glass of cheap bourbon, and beats his kids and wife mercilessly.

  • connor

    what a joke

  • preston

    They actually feared for their safety? That doesn’t make any sense. All they were witnessing was boobies and pot. Feel like these agents mommies still tuck them in at night. Grow up fellas’

  • Evan Knappenberger

    we the people hereby revoke the Virginia ABC charter! call your statehouse reps, tell them it’s time to get rid of the corrupt and useless ABC.

  • stopsearchin

    Ppl like that are the reason more than half our prisons are filled with not violent offenders… smh

  • Echo

    Given the VABC agents’ recently demonstrated inability to differentiate between water and beer, should we actually believe that they can successfully identify weed, or boobs?

  • gypsydaveywithablowtorch

    Shut em down I say. The horror of it all. I bet most of them didn’t even attend Sunday morning services. We should elect that agent President in 2016 – this country needs more true partriots like he.

  • Stephen

    Easy solution…..keep the under covers out.

  • W B

    Feared for their lives at a music festival. Like the hippies were armed, violent and dangerous. Complete BS.

  • Chad

    Clara A. Williamson needs to be fired, impeached and publically embarrassed to send a message to other power-tripping VA agencies. Va residents – time to take your state back!

  • Albemarle Citizen

    Williamson cited testimony from ABC Special
    Agent Matthew Layman, that the “blatant” drug use was “the highest incidence of
    drug use he’d ever seen in his career” ….

    Dude needs to get out more…it was a four-day music fest, and quite peaceful at that.

    And what’s with the multiple officers filming the topless lady…seriously?

  • Robert Van Fossen Jr

    Couldn’t help but to notice the date stamp on the picture y’all ran, with the guy hittin’ the pipe. Seems that this footage should be inadmisable as evidence since there was absolutely NOTHING going on there on the date indcated by the date stamp 9/11/2013 that was the wednesday after the festival.

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