It's the most wonderful time of the year: when we all gather together at company parties to wear ugly sweaters, eat some cheese cubes, have a few drinks with that girl from HR … and get shut down by the cops. At least, that's what happened at one event in Boston last Friday.
One week ago, member's of the city's technology sector came together for the fourth annual Tech Co-Party, the purpose of which was to throw “an office holiday party for tech start-ups too small to have their own.” It was an open invitation, and party-goers paid up to $50 to join the fun. Part of the profits went to charity.
Unfortunately, the event was cut a few hours short. The Institute for Justice (IJ) reports that “a little after midnight on December 13th, Boston police crashed the party and shut down the bar. Officers issued a citation to the Revere Hotel, which hosted the Tech Co-Party, for allegedly breaking the law.”
One of the participating organizations, Calcbench, took to Twitter to explain what happened. “We were told the liquor commision accused the organizers of trying to turn a proft [sic]. I guess open bar is not allowed for that,” they wrote.
Event organizer Ben Carcio said, “From what Boston Police said to us the night of the event, they watch EventBrite, where we sold the tickets, and they look for ‘Open Bar,’ which is their concern. They view it as unlimited drinking for a ticketed price.”
Massachusetts liquor laws prohibit selling “to any person or group of persons any drinks at a price less than the price regularly charged for such drinks during the same calendar week, except at private functions not open to the public.” If the party wasn't doomed already, “advertis[ing] or promot[ing] in any way” open bars is also part of law – which the Tech Co-Party broke by encouraging party-goers to promote it on social media.
Carcio was unaware of the law, which hasn't been invoked to stop the Tech Co-Party in past years. He was perplexed as to why the police didn't "just let us know [open bar was not allowed],” he explained to Boston magazine. “That one little thing would have prevented any of this being more than it needed to be." He also stated that in order to guarantee "no hard feelings" between them, $500 raised by the Tech Co-Party was donated to the Boston Police Department.
City councilor Tito Jackson said he was aware that “police look at Facebook and Eventbrite as part of the monitoring they have [in place].” He agreed with Carcio that if police “have information prior to an event, we should either be picking up the phone, visiting the bar, or having a conversation and reminding people of the laws or rules and regulations, rather than show up the night of the event and shut it down.”
A string of similar busts happened last New Year's in Boston, and police presumably will continue to catch harmless holiday parties off-guard unless legislators decides to reform the law.