ALBANY -- Responding to public complaints, Golden Gate Fields canceled "Bottomless Saturdays," a promotion featuring a flat price for unlimited well drinks.
"Just like Proctor and Gamble, if we came out with a shampoo that nobody liked, we would pull the brand," Golden Gate Fields Director of Marketing Dan Cirimele said.
The promotion was to begin April 20. Patrons would be able to pay $30 for admission, a program and unlimited well drinks, sodas and waters. Cirimele said unlimited didn't mean track employees were going to serve over-intoxicated fans.
"It was bottomless in terms of what you can handle," he said. "Our staff was not going to over-serve. There was no intention on our part to have somebody come out here and drink well past their tolerance."
Cirimele added that the track was planning several precautions to prevent drinking and driving. He said they were promoting the free shuttle service that runs from the North Berkeley BART station to the track and that designated drivers would have gotten a free wristband for admission and unlimited non-alcoholic drinks. Local law enforcement was contacted as well to make sure everything ran smoothly.
However, an anonymous letter purportedly from a track employee raised concerns about the event. The letter cited the potential for drunken driving or other drunken behavior harming the health and welfare of the employees.
At first, the track tried to allay those concerns, pointing out the precautions it was taking. Eventually, the promotion was canceled just days before it was to start.
Cirimele said he contacted Mothers Against Drunk Driving to let the group know that the track was canceling the promotion.
"They said, 'You don't have to cancel it, we just want to make sure you take the proper precautions,'" Cirimele said.
He noted that many bars offer similar promotions and that the track was simply looking for a promotion to draw a younger demographic. Horse racing once was one of the biggest sports in the United States, with tracks drawing tens of thousands of fans on a daily basis. However, it has been in decline for decades and the fans who do come out tend to be older.
"We were, hopefully, going to appeal to a demographic that we don't normally attract," Cirimele said. "We were just doing what typical businesses do."
The coverage of the controversy did have a benefit for Cirimele.
"It's funny," he said. "My mom was excited about how I was in so much print."