In many places, one might be forgiven for forgetting that the world is still in the midst of a battle with the COVID-19 virus. However, the pandemic is still killing tens of thousands of people daily and we are not ‘back to normal’. In fact, Munich’s legendary Oktoberfest celebration will be cancelled again in 2021 due to pandemic concerns.
A government statement credited the decision jointly to Bavarian state Premier Markus Söder and Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter. The 210-year-old festival draws about six million visitors and generates about €1bn ($1.09bn) revenue annually according to Reiter. The pair stressed that despite the economic benefits, the risk of a humanitarian disaster was simply too great.
“In the classic beer tents at the big festivals, social distancing, masks and other measures are practically impossible to implement,” Söder said.
“The situation is too precarious. Imagine there was a new wave and it then became a superspreader event. The brand would be damaged forever and we don’t want that.”
Typical of the pandemic, the decision is not without dissent. An unrelated group vowed to host an unsanctioned ‘Oktoberfest’ in Dubai this fall.
Organized by Charles Blume, a force behind the Berlin Christmas market, the event claims capacity for up to 120,000 guests and “no restrictions to traditional Bavarian dress, beer, music or sale and consumption of foods of any kind.”
(Notably, Dubai is an odd choice for a beer festival given that the Emirate heavily restricted the sale of alcohol until just last year.)
Blume’s scheme was not well received by the powers behind the actual Munich Oktoberfest. “The Oktoberfest is a Munich original and takes place exclusively in Munich,” a spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Economic Affairs of the City of Munich declared in a statement.