Boston Police Bust a Holiday Party Because Open Bars are Illegal in Massachusetts

For four years in a row, tech start-ups in Boston have held an office holiday party for firms “too small to have their own.” The Tech Co-Party also donates a portion of the proceeds to charity. For tickets up to $50, revelers could party and get goodie bags, meet an “awkward Santa” and enjoy an open bar. But that open bar attracted some uninvited guests: the licensing division of the Boston Police Department.

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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.

In Massachusetts, it’s illegal to “sell, offer to sell or deliver to any person an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price, except at private functions not open to the public.” Likewise, organizers are also forbidden to “advertise or promote in any way” public open bars, which would include the Tech Co-Party.

According to Ben Carcio, one of the organizers for the Tech Co-Party, “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.”

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But Carcio and the other organizers didn’t know about this until the police arrived on that Friday night. Since police were already monitoring the event ahead of time, Carcio wished the city gave the organizers a “heads up” before the party:

If they were planning this, they could have just let us know [open bar was not allowed]. That one little thing would have prevented any of this being more than it needed to be. If the ABCC [Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission] and the police department want to help the community and prevent embarrassment, they could have reached out. But they waited for it and made it awkward for everyone.

To ensure there are “no hard feelings,” the Tech Co-Party donated $500 to the Boston Police Foundation.
This hasn’t been the only case of overregulating the holidays. Earlier this month, the Institute for Justice reported that an 11-year-old girl in Portland, Ore., was told she couldn’t sell mistletoe without a permit (but it would have been ok to beg instead).

— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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