By Heather Burke Hoya Staff Writer

Over the past two months the semi-annual Charity Block Party has encountered several hurdles, including the initial denial of a one-day alcohol license by the Alcohol Beverage Commission two weeks ago. But the event will proceed as planned this Friday from noon to 7 p.m on the 1200 block of 37th Street since the ABC granted Block Party’s organizers a liquor license at a hearing last Wednesday.

The ABC granted the one-day alcohol permit with two stipulations. First, the organizers should charge a $10 admission fee. Secondly, the entrance fee should allow patrons 21 and older to have two beers instead of the three initially planned by the organizers, according to ABC spokeswoman Jacqueline Wallace of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

“It is a fair solution that accommodates everyone,” she said.

Initially, the ABC had denied the license because the board felt that underage drinking was a serious problem and their policy was to not approve events where people under 21 were present.

Organizer Mike Owens (MSB ’00) said Block Party organizers agreed to these conditions and were pleased with the ABC’s decision. “We felt that we have been treated fairly now that the event has gone through,” he said. “Ultimately, all of the relevant parties, the [Advisory Neighborhood Commission], the Mayor’s Special Events Task Group [which issues the street-closing permit] and now the ABC have seen the true colors of Block Party and realize they can’t legitimately deny it.”

Yet the controversy surrounding the Block Party shows that the event’s future remains tenuous and that critics will be scrutinizing the event.

“I’m hoping students will realize this will be a pivotal Block Party,” ANC Commissioner Matt Payne (COL ’01) said. “Students should enjoy themselves responsibly. Any bumps in the road could sidetrack Block Party forever.”

The battle over Block Party approval comes in the midst of a debate on campus and in the community over the role of alcohol in student life and what ANC Commissioner Peter Pulsifer termed a “culture of drinking” on Georgetown’s campus. This debate has been intensified by several serious events, including the death of junior David Shick on Feb. 22. Shick died of head trauma after a fight in the parking lot behind Lauinger Library in which the etropolitan Police Department said the participants had been drinking. In addition, local police have begun to crack down on underage drinking in the Georgetown area.

In February, Dean of Students James A. Donahue refused to write his traditional letter of support for Block Party, saying that his office could not support the event at a time when the university was mourning Shick’s death. The Block Party is run by a nonprofit foundation, independent of Georgetown University.

Block Party approval caused a heated debate at a Feb. 29 ANC meeting, resulting in a close 4-3 vote in favor of supporting Block Party. At the meeting, residents, students and commissioners hotly debated Block Party itself and the larger issue of student drinking and its impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. Commissioners and residents opposed to the event claimed that supporting Block Party would send a bad message in the wake of Shick’s death.

However, according to Payne, Debbie Shick, David’s mother, called him and said she did not want Block Party canceled because of his death. Payne said that, instead, Mrs. Shick said that David had said the Block Party brought people together. “She said that after a tough semester, we should bring people together,” Payne said. Shick’s parents wrote a letter to The Hoya saying that they did not want to see the event canceled.

In addition, other residents and commissioners, including members of the Burleith Citizens’ Association, complained that Block Party would create a spillover of rowdy behavior in the neighborhood.

In an e-mail to the student body, the organizers, Owens, Thom Devlin (MSB ’00) and Bryan Spoon (COL ’00) cautioned students about behavior at Block Party. All students and community members are invited to attend; however, only those 21 and older with a valid government-issued ID can drink. “As you enjoy this semester’s Block Party, please act responsibly and respectfully. All of our actions will have direct consequences for the future of this amazing event,” the organizers wrote in a letter to the student body.

At the meeting, the student organizers, their lawyer, Paul Pascal, ANC Commissioner Art Schultz and Payne testified about the event and answered questions from members of the board, ranging from the way event-goers get in to the role of alcohol at the event.

Schultz said he explained to the ABC board that the event was well-run, for charity and a tradition. In addition, he pointed out that the ANC approved the event, a fact that he believes the ABC gave great weight. “I think the ABC board decided [in favor of the Block Party] because they were convinced that the organizers had done a good job and that there would be no underage drinking,” he said.

Schultz is part of a Georgetown community task force working to curb underage drinking and excessive alcohol consumption through actions like lobbying for more non-alcohol events on campus and changing the fake-ID law to allow citations for using false identification to get into a bar, not just to buy alcohol.

While the $10 admission at the Block Party will allow those 21 and older to have two 12-ounce cups of beer instead of the traditional three 16-ounce ones, those of age can buy additional cups at one dollar apiece. Owens said that there will be free soda and water as well as Domino’s Pizza for sale at Block Party. Block Party will also offer a variety of musical entertainment. The Sugar’s Band will play at 1:30 p.m., Regan at 3 p.m. and Mudcat Jones at 4:30 p.m. In addition, WGTB will spin tunes before, during and after the bands’ sets. Charities receiving the Block Party profits include Sursum Corda, It’s For The Kids, Campaign Georgetown, Habitat for Humanity, Hyde Elementary PTA, Holy Trinity Elementary School and Christ House, a soup kitchen.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and we’re excited it’s happening,” Owens said.

Related Links

Block Party License Denied (4/18)

ANC Approves Block Party (3/15) University Withdraws Support for Block Party (2/29)

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