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‘Halfway to Blarney Blowout’ event causes problems in North Amherst

AMHERST — Despite community complaints about disturbances caused by drunken revelers at the annual St. Patrick’s Day downtown bar promotion, the bars packed the downtown area Saturday with patrons of the Halfway to Barney Blowout event, held six months before the holiday.

With warm, sunny weather, downtown streets began filling by 11 a.m. with college-age people waiting for the noontime opening of several places sponsoring the 14th annual halfway to St. Patrick’s Day event. Bouncers at the bars wore green hats and passed out beads to those arriving early. Many of the patrons were in St. Patrick’s Day-related attire.

Police Chief Scott Livingstone said his officers were aware of the promotion and requested that the bars, including McMurphy’s Uptown Tavern, not publicize it through social media.

“I don’t want it being promoted like that,” Livingstone said.

The police chief spoke to bar managers ahead of time and had officers drop by the establishments to discuss their expectations and ensure customers would be safe. Livingstone said few problems developed, though downtown was busier than usual.

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said she was disappointed the bars held the promotion, especially coming after the Blarney Blowout in March that led to a large-scale disturbance involving more than 2,000 people in North Amherst.

“We’ve had so much progress in trying to dial back the impacts of the March promotion, to try to extend that in the fall seems like a major step backward,” O’Keeffe said.

Though police received just one call from a business about the event, and the Select Board and town manager’s officer didn’t receive any, O’Keeffe said it conflicted with community efforts aimed at discouraging overconsumption of alcohol.

“It didn’t result in a lot of complaints, but it did result in mixed messaging,” O’Keeffe said.

The first call for a related disturbance came in Saturday at 10:33 a.m., when police officers responded to a McClellan Street home where loud Irish music was playing. The residents were warned and more than 50 guests were cleared out.

By mid afternoon, though, those who had been at the bars, joined by those not of drinking age, began congregating in North Amherst.

“It was a typical Saturday where kids were milling around looking for something to do,” Livingstone said.

Livingstone said his officers hear from those college-age people roaming around that there are no activities for them. But O’Keeffe said that at exactly the same time, almost 500 University of Massachusetts students participated in Mass Impact Day, an opportunity to volunteer at community projects throughout the area.

Between 1:45 and 3:21 p.m. police handled several calls along Meadow Street and North Pleasant Street in North Amherst, said Detective Richard MacLean.

Officers were dispatched first to Townehouse Apartments at 50 Meadow St., where about 400 people were hanging out in two of the “quad” areas that have become popular places for large-scale gatherings, such as during the Blarney Blowout in March.

Several tenants identified as the hosts were warned about encouraging disruptive behavior. “A large party was dispersed by our officers,” MacLean said.

At 2:10 p.m., police went to Hobart Lane, where about 150 people, some of whom had previously been at Townehouse, were causing a disturbance behind a residence before being sent away. Thirty minutes later, police broke up a gathering of about 300 people behind Crestview Apartments at 1001 North Pleasant St. At 3:08 p.m. police told another 300 people gathered at 977 North Pleasant St. to move along.

It wasn’t until 3:21 p.m. at 816 North Pleasant St. that police took more decisive action, when a resident in charge of the house was issued tickets for violating the town’s noise and nuisance house bylaws.

Only three arrests were made Saturday afternoon. Stacey N. Bezreh, 20, of Burlington, Kali A. Moore, 20, of Wrentham, and Ashley Michelle Cipolletti, 20, of Mansfield, were all arrested on charges of being minors in possession of alcohol after being found on Hobart Lane, Meadow Street and North Pleasant Street, MacLean said.

Cipolletti also faces a charge of resisting arrest. Police said she led officers on a chase through nearby woods after being told she was under arrest, MacLean said.

Significant party activity didn’t resume until Sunday at 12:56 a.m., when six officers spent nearly an hour clearing out partygoers at an Old Farm Road house after receiving a complaint from neighbors.

MacLean said more than 150 people congregating at 419 Old Farm Road were disrupting the generally quiet area.

Arrested on charges of violating the town’s noise and nuisance house bylaws, both of which can have fines assessed at $300, were Daniel J. DuBois, 19, of Haverhill, Robert S. O’Neil, 20, of Milton, and Rui R. Pereira, 20, and Timothy J. Stoops, 20, both of 419 Old Farm Road, MacLean said.

The $2,400 in fines the residents of Old Farm Road were assessed were part of $6,300 in potential fines related to arrests, summons and tickets for violating the town’s noise and nuisance house bylaws issued by police during the weekend.

In addition, a total of 25 people were arrested or summoned to court on charges of being minors in possession of alcohol and violating the town’s open container bylaw.

Legacy Comments1

Chief Livingstone you can't have it both ways. Down playing drinking by students for this event but otherwise complaining UMass can't keep their drunken students under control. Make up your mind. Any event promoting drinking - especially knowing the bars are specifically targeting students - should be discouraged knowing what issues can arise.

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