Over the weekend more than 20 young adults were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning after attending a so called “blackout party” in Montclair, New Jersey. This is just the latest in a controversial tour of blackout parties around the country sponsored by Barstool U.
The Barstool U Blackout Tour touts itself as the world’s biggest blacklight parties. Promotional videos and pictures of the events feature scantily clad women mosh pit dancing to techno music with strobe and laser lights and fire extinguisher sprays as accents.
Although not held on campus grounds, the parties that are directed toward students in college towns by a site whose slogan is “By the C- student, for the C- student.” The parties are well-attended — nearly all the stops on its 40-city tour have sold out — but they have also draw scrutiny from groups saying it is just an avenue for encouraging binge drinking and perpetuating “rape culture.”
ABC News reports that the latest party near Montclair State University that drew more than 2,500 students was so bad, the police decided to shut it down:
Police quickly decided to cancel the event as they watched thousands of inebriated people pushing and shouting to get into the theater, according to Police Chief David Sabagh. As police tried to disperse the crowds, they transported two dozen individuals to hospitals for alcohol-related illnesses, he said.
“We made the determination to shut it down, and then deployed ambulances. People started fighting with the police, so there were a half-dozen arrests, and 24 people hospitalized. Most cases were, apparently, young females passed out or who had fallen because of their level of intoxication,” Sabagh said.
Watch the report:
This is by no means an isolated incident associated with the blackout parties. According to ABC, last month seven arrests were made and nine individuals treated for illness in Huntington, New York. Similar accounts were reported at the Boston party in March, and more than 300 fake IDs were confiscated at a February party.
ABC reports fans of the event comparing it to a concert, not a binge drink fest:
“Almost no drinking is happening at it. It’s a terrible bar night,” [founder Dave] Portnoy told ABCNews.com. “It’s not like you’re out at a bar for a typical night or a concert. It’s high energy fast music. From when the show starts to when the show ends, nobody moves, it’s just dancing the entire time. It’s not conducive to holding a beer or drinking during the concert.”
The official Barstool Blackout Tour page for Northeastern University on Facebook warns guests to “be quiet, don’t have bottles, and look as sober as possible,” while waiting in line to enter.
Portnoy, however, said his company and the Blackout Tour have little to do with drinking.
“No, I haven’t noticed (attendees drinking heavily). I’m sure there’s a few kids that drink before hand, but it’s no different than any other concert or sporting event that goes on in the country. If people are going to pre-game, they’re not doing it any differently,” he said.
The Daily Mail reports Portnoy saying the blackout name refers to black lights, not getting drunk to the point of blacking out. Tickets for these events can cost up to $100. Here’s just one of many promotional videos from the tour showcasing what a blackout party entails (Warning: Graphic dancing, dress and actions):
Some have taken to launching anti-blackout party protests, such as Knockout Blackout founded by students at Northwestern University. The Daily Mail has more from this group:
“Barstool Sports perpetuates rape culture,” Anna Siembor, a founder of Knockout Barstool, a students group at Northeastern University, told the student newspaper in February.
Still, Portnoy flagrantly dismisses accusations such as this. ABC reports him responding to a comment writing:
“Just to make friends with the feminists I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties in mid January. However if a chick passes out, that’s a grey area.”
According to the tour schedule, there will be one more blackout party in Boston this week before it moves south for sold-out shows in the Carolinas.