Press Club

Survey Says: Bar Crawl Organizers Should Pay County Costs

Cinco De MEGA-Crawl sign in ClarendonArlington County asked for feedback on a potential new pub crawl policy — and it’s getting it in droves.

A month after a particularly rowdy St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl this year, the county announced in April that it’s exploring the idea of establishing new regulations for pub crawls, perhaps also providing a bigger police presence and making crawl organizers pay for the police and medical support.

Meanwhile, the county has created an online survey, asking those who live and work in Arlington for their thoughts on setting a time limit for bar crawls; a cap on the number of bar crawls per year, per month or per neighborhood; and who should pay for police, fire department and street cleaning services.

The one area where there is nearly universal agreement: bar crawl organizers, not the county, should pay for the added police, fire/EMS and street cleaning services.

There was also a free-response section for “other views and suggestions” on bar crawls. Opponents of the bar crawls — who seem to outnumber those who support such events in the survey’s “responses” section — didn’t hold back.

Excerpts of some of their responses:

  • “Bar crawl participants should be prohibited from entering residential areas adjacent to the commercial area where the bar crawl occurs, unless they (1) can demonstrate they live there, or (2) have parked there and pass a breathalyzer test.”
  • “Beer bottles in my yard; drunks found sleeping on neighbors’ porches… I think the hours of the crawl need to be limited… much, much too long.”
  • “‘Bar crawling’ needs to be sharply curtailed. The noise and public urination at these events lowers property values, resulting in lower tax revenues for the County. Even worse, the binge drinking that occurs at these events can prove fatal to the drinker.”
  • “I am shocked that our county board promotes public drunks and for MONEY no less… What kind of a reputation does that render?”
  • “Organizers should need to obtain a license/permit to hold such an event, and that should cost money. “
  • “We are not U St (I don’t want to live there), so an overabundance of large professional bar crawls would not be pleasant for those who have lived here for a while. I would be more in favor of an event where they shut down streets where the crawls are located, hopefully making it safer for both drivers and revelers.”
  • “I think these are totally inappropriate events. They encourage binge drinking, littering, public obscenity, assault, and other bad behavior. I have seen a group of 40-50 bar crawlers walking through my neighborhood (Lyon Park), directly in front of my yard in broad daylight. They were drinking from solo cups, swearing loudly and littering — and this was only on the way TO the event.”
  • “We already have bar crawl participants throwing up on lawns in the Clarendon area. It is unfair to expect people who live nearby to absorb this level of nuisance. Bar crawls also model bad behavior for Arlington teens.”
  • “My main concern with bar crawls isn’t the crawls themselves (although they have an annoying impact on parking availability), its the long-term impact they may have on the character of the business’ that move into the area. There’s been a trend over the last few years for restaurants to close down and be replaced by ‘sports bars’ and other establishments dedicated solely to getting smashed.”
  • “Residents with or without kids should not have to put up with the additional late night noise and other nonsense (fights, vomit, public urination, black outs requiring paramedics, petty property crimes) that can reasonably be expected to happen from time to time when dealing with groups of drunken pub crawlers.”
  • “The police and fire/EMS are busy enough on regular weekends and holidays without adding unnecessary insanity and work. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I think we don’t need bar crawls at all. They’re more of a headache than they’re worth.”

There were also comments generally supportive of bar crawls:

  • “Doesn’t Arlington County have better things to do?”
  • “I think pub crawls are fun and can be enjoyable for participants as well as profitable for businesses. If managed correctly they are a win-win.”
  • “It’s great how many people the crawls bring to the area, they’re an important part of getting DC people to Arlington, but the event planners need to pay for the effects of what happen when the crawl technically ends but the people keep on drinking.”
  • “Events like this do bring in substantial revenue for the businesses in the county and they also make Arlington a popular place to live which is the reason why we have seen the tremendous growth over the last 10 years. There’s no reason that these events cannot be fun and that the county and it’s residents cannot co-exist with these types of events.”
  • “Bar crawls are great for people my age (21-30 yrs old) and they are a cash-cow for participating businesses and the county. People drink and eat much more than they normally would on a regular day/night out because of the enthusiastic atmosphere a bar crawl generates. That being said, there should be a plan in place to compensate for the negatives a bar crawl brings, including enforcing a strict “end time” and ensuring enough of a police and fire/EMS presence is on scene for support.”
  • “Events which bring people to the area (regardless if it is for socializing with alcohol or going to buy fresh vegetables at a farmers market, or to buy used items at Civitan) should be left as unrestricted as possible. Discouraging these events loses local tax money and makes the area a less interesting place to live. I like living and working in a vibrant area that attracts people of all kinds for all reasons.”

The survey’s introduction notes that for-profit bar crawls “are a new phenomenon to Arlington County.”

Shamrock crawl (photo via Groupon)“The first bar crawl was held in March 2013,” the survey says. “To date, events have spanned the distance from Glebe Road at Wilson Blvd. through the Clarendon area to the Courthouse area. The events are becoming more popular and the County expects that demand for events will grow. The events have had an impact on Police and other County services.”

The county says that initial conversations with community members, promoters and business owners have revealed general support for bar crawls, “provided some management of the events is put in place.”

County staff are continuing to work on a set of policy recommendations that will eventually be presented to the Arlington County Board for consideration. No word yet on when that might take place. The survey closes on June 20.

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