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Evolution of Block Party Laws

BLOOMSBURG — Throughout the years, a progression of ordinances have been passed in order to keep Block Party weekend under control. Some of those laws worked out. Others, not so much.

Let’s take a look at how things are today, compared to when the spring party first began. A number of ordinances were passed back in 2010 after many incidents of thrown bottles, underage drinking, and public rowdiness. Under those laws:

• Organizers of outdoor drinking parties of more than 150 people have to apply for a permit only if they are enrolled at BU, are members of a BU organization or are throwing the party at off-campus student housing.
• The property where a party is thrown must be cleaned up by 10 a.m. the next day. If it isn’t, the party’s organizers risk losing a cash bond they will have to post with their permit application.
• Party organizers have to provide a portable toilet for every 100 people attending their party.
• Party planners also have to provide visible security and dumpsters.
• Students and student housing with past party rule violations can be banned from holding future parties.
• Aluminum cans now allowed.

It wasn’t always this way. It was in 2007 when police first sent out a letter to students living off-campus, in fraternities and in sororities stating that if they plan to have more than 150 people at the house then they must get a permit. Many of the houses got permits to keep people in line, but there were always some revelers that have to start some type of issue.
During 2007’s Block Party celebration, revelers started throwing bottles at one another for a solid 20 minutes. Because of the raucous that was started town council decided at a meeting in June that they would require landlords to sign permit applicant for outdoor parties that will host more than 150 people, limiting the hours parties are allowed, and clamping down on the number of people allowed parties in a specific area, like Fetterman Avenue.

As we go back further onto the timeline of laws, we find considerably fewer restrictions. In 2006 the town passed an ordinance that prohibits large outdoor parties from serving alcohol in glass containers, but it doesn’t apply to any parties of fewer than 150 people. For four years prior to that, nothing new had been passed.

In 2002 police setup a roadblock. If the car didn’t have a Sesame Street parking sticker, then they were turned away immediately. Bloomsburg University lots were also shut down on First Street and in front of the hospital. Signs said no cars were permitted to park there from 5 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Sunday or cars would be towed. Later that year in December the town won a court injunction against Block Party, stating that it prohibits any parties of more than 300 people at a time. Those who went against the court order could be arrested and fined.

Back in 2001 is when police started to gather permits for houses deciding to host a party and only allowing up to four guests per person for each party that was held at the Sesame Street apartment complex, where Block Party originally was held.

Kris Rech, former BU student in the late 90s, offered up the following recollection of the early days of Block Party: “Back then ‘block parties’ were very common, but the off campus apartment one took the cake due to the amount of people that showed up due to the square design and just enough outside of town to go all night and to be left alone for the most part. Other block parties were common throughout the year, but the old off campus apartments [Sesame Street] was the one everyone look forward to once a year. The block party took place mostly outside, every apartment had a cover charge for beer, most people walked and brought their own. The grass area in front and behind apartments were packed with crowds including the square parking lot. Not many people parked in the lot because bottles were always being thrown, fires started with furniture, and cars even flipped. So there was more space for crowds. Police for the most part left it alone because it wasn’t hurting anything in town and 99% of people were walking not driving…

“Not sure what block party consists of now” Rech added, “but I [imagine] it’s regulated pretty tight and you better be 21 and not causing trouble. It’s not as care-free as it once was (a university just having some fun).”

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