Breckenridge officials, business owners voice concerns about Oktoberfest aftermath

Breckenridge's Oktoberfest featured local and national vendors on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. Some of the disturbances from patrons following the event has led officials to ask for something to change.
Kit Geary/Summit Daily

While described by some as one of the more “tame” Oktoberfests in recent memory, some business owners on Breckenridge’s Main Street still say they were negatively impacted by the festival.

Once the event ended, those who participated flowed out into downtown Breckenridge, many of them intoxicated, some causing issues for local businesses. At Wednesday’s town council meeting Mayor Eric Mamula, a business owner on Main Street, told the Council something had to be done. 

“Saturday night of Oktoberfest is awful for a lot of the businesses on Main Street. I know it’s an important event for the town, but there has to be some assistance given rather than unleashing all the drunk people after 6 o’clock into the community,” Mamula said. 

After Oktoberfest ended, attendees were throwing up and breaking things near establishments downtown, Mamula said. He said one person even defecated near his business. 

According to Mamula, this has always been a bad event for retailers downtown, with some closing their doors early the day of the event due to previous negative experiences. 

The Mountain Goat Clothing Co. is one of those businesses and closed at 5 p.m. to avoid the drunken crowds. Owner Pete Meltzer said the shop used to close at 6 p.m. on Saturdays, but now closes earlier after past negative experiences with people bringing beer into his high-end clothing store despite being asked not to. He describes the weekend being historically taxing for him and his wife, as they are the only two employees of the store. 

“When the event breaks up, and people don’t have the streets to be on anymore, a higher percentage of people come into shops that are under the influence of alcohol and just obnoxious,” Meltzer said.

On top of that, Meltzer said the shop typically brings in more revenue on the weekends before and after Oktoberfest as opposed to the weekend of the event. Other business owners who had their establishments closed that night returned to them Sunday morning to find other surprises.

Brad Wynn, the owner of Peak-A-Boo Toys, returned to his store Sunday morning to find the bench in front of his establishment had been broken. 

“Every year it’s something: something is busted or there’s a fight,” Mamula said. “It’s just not something we deal with at any other point during the year.”

Mamula and other members of council also had concerns about the number of dogs at the event, which is supposed to be pet-free. 

Some business owners only reported finding empty bottles around their establishments and others said this year was not nearly as crazy compared to previous years.

Breckenridge resident Jeffrey Ararat said he has both participated and volunteered at the event over the last 10 years and said this year’s Oktoberfest was the tamest yet. With security present this year, he said it seemed as though there was less violence and conflict among drunk patrons. 

Breckenridge Police public information officer Colleen Goettelman said the station received no more reports of drunk and disorderly activity than they usually would during an Oktoberfest weekend.  

Some councilmembers suspected that Oktoberfest attendees were not just getting drunk off of the locally offered beers. 

“From my experience, it’s not them drinking Breck Brewery beers at the event, it’s what they’re bringing in their backpacks.” Councilperson Jay Beckernman said. 

The Breckenridge Tourism Office, which runs Oktoberfest, is currently in the midst of completing its formal debrief, according to Melissa Andrews the office’s public relations director. For the debrief, the office will seek input on how the event went from the town’s operating departments, volunteers, representatives, businesses and community members. That survey went out earlier this week, Andrews said. 

These special events help fund the Breckenridge Tourism Office. Last year the organization pulled in nearly $611,000 from special events.

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