Two Northern Virginia counties are deliberating crackdowns on parties. Fairfax County is considering an ordinance that would ban frequent, large gatherings in private homes, while next-door neighbor Arlington County is debating banning bar crawls.
The Fairfax ordinance would ban groups larger than 49 people from gathering in a private residence more often than three times in any 40 day period.
“Over the last several years, there have been complaints from residents regarding frequent large gatherings at neighborhood homes. These gatherings can create parking, noise, and other concerns for the neighborhood,” the Fairfax County website says.
“Although occasional, large gatherings - such as private parties, house concerts, religious meetings and social clubs - are expected and permissible activities at a home, gatherings that occur on a regular basis involving numerous people can detract from the residential nature of a neighborhood because most residential structures and neighborhoods are not designed to accommodate such events.”
But the ordinance raises concerns about the Bill of Rights’ First Amendment right to assemble. “Does the Constitution still apply in Fairfax?”ConservativeHQ asks. “George Mason, one of the fathers of the Bill of Rights, must be rolling in his grave at Gunston Hall in Fairfax County” because of the potential ordinance.
“I believe the county is risking a lawsuit and/or a [Constitution] challenge by interfering with [people’s] right to assemble,” Supervisor Pat Herrity said in a statement, according to Watchdog.org. “This is yet another instance where we appear to be punishing the many for the actions of the few.”
Herrity told Watchdog.org that there were only six complaints about group meetings in homes in the suburban county just outside Washington, DC last year. “They haven’t even reached 1 percent of the thousands of complaints our Department of Code Compliance investigates a year.”
In urban Arlington County, Police Chief M. Douglas Scott is looking to limit the number of bar crawls in the popular Clarendon neighborhood, as well as the number of tickets sold, the Washington Post reports. There is currently no permitting process in place for bar crawls that can draw thousands of people: A St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl drew more than 5,400 people and led to 45 police calls, 17 fights, 25 arrests, 16 calls for medica, 105 escorts of the stumbling to cabs and 10 citations for public urination.
“We could have made many more arrests,” Capt. Brian Gough said at a community meeting with police on the topic last week, according to the Washington Post. He said that a lack of manpower prevented those arrests, even though there were 51 officers monitoring the event.
“It’s a logistical nightmare and also a safety concern,” police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told the Post. “Who’s ultimately footing the bill for these officers? Right now it is not the bar or the organizers.” Arlington police received an additional $42,000 in the county’s recently approved budget specifically for dealing with bar crawls.
Both counties are seeking public comment on the proposals.