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Police warn of X-Fest hazards

Downtown Modesto business owners, bartenders and bouncers got a rundown of state alcohol laws and safety issues Saturday afternoon in preparation for the eighth annual Xclamation Festival.

The Modesto Police Department provided the free training at its headquarters to help businesses prepare for the roughly 15,000 people expected to attend the popular multiple-band event downtown on July 21.

Detective Mike Hicks, whose main duty is alcohol enforcement, conducted the training. About 50 people attended.

Hicks said alcohol violations seem to be the most common infractions during X-Fest, which boasts dozens of local and national bands playing on eight outdoor and indoor stages in a fenced-off area around downtown.

Hicks said this is the fifth year Modesto police have offered the training, which is supposed to be an educational tool to reduce the number of violations.

"Unfortunately, some people are going to have to learn the hard way," Hicks said to the training attendees. "Hopefully, it's not going to be any of you."

This year's event will feature 43 bands, said Chris Ricci, the event's chief organizer. He said there is a correlation between the businesses who don't attend the training and the ones with violations.

"If you know the rules, you don't break the laws," Ricci said.

Despite some hazards, Ricci said X-Fest is a fun event that people can enjoy safely if everyone takes precautions.

Hicks said some of the common business violations include serving alcohol to overly intoxicated patrons.

Along with California Alcoholic Beverage Control laws, the training featured a discussion of fire code occupancy regulations.

"Pretty much every bar downtown hits its capacity during X-Fest, so everybody needs to know the occupancy codes," Ricci said.

Laura Lawrence of the Modesto Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau, will be at X-Fest with a team of inspectors to check occupancy levels.

She said last year's heat — Modesto's high temperature that day was 111 — forced many concertgoers to seek refuge in air-conditioned bars and restaurants in the early evening. Heat exhaustion posed a serious threat last year to patrons and vendors, she said.

"I caught a vendor last year and he almost went face-first into his grill," Lawrence said.

Modesto Virtual owner Brady Post remembers many people, including police officers, escaping the heat inside his business.

Post offers virtual computer racing games, and this year will be his first time participating in X-Fest with an alcohol license. Modesto Virtual is teaming up with Paradise Pizza to promote food sales along with alcohol.

Hicks said that is one of the keys to promoting a safer environment during X-Fest.

"Don't make your whole night's goal selling as much alcohol as you can," Hicks said to the attendees. "Promote food sales; it slows the intoxication process."

Palladium bouncer Miguel Tellez sat attentively Saturday, taking notes on heat exhaustion symptoms. He said he wants to be able to spot it and get help before someone gets hurt.

"The heat plus the alcohol; I think it's necessary we have this training," Tellez said. "It definitely sheds a lot of light."

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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