The Mountain Times

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The International Party faces obstacles from a city ordinance

This winter, the International Party celebrated its 10th anniversary. The popular party is held at The Local in Rutland this year after being hosted in Killington the nine years prior. But the 18+ dance party may now be at risk due to the recent interpretation of a city ordinance. The city Aldermen are looking to clarify an existing policy for disallowing students 18 and over in 21+ nightclubs. If successful, it would leave the party homeless, and legions of international workers from Killington, Okemo and Stratton very disappointed. The Wednesday gathering has become the highlight of the week for workers from dozens of countries who flock to the bar to dance to music from their homelands.

International party founder and DJ, Craig Hahn, feels like the International Party is being threatened unfairly. "This seems to have become a personal issue for some of the city Alderman and the Chief of Police, but there is no reason for these kids to be the one who are hurt. The International students mostly live in Rutland and Chip has created a safe environment for me to continue my 10th season," Hahn says.

The recent controversy can be traced to this summer when the Rutland board narrowly defeated an amendment to the City's Entertainment Club Ordinance that would allow for 18+ events at "over 21 clubs." The catch is that the ordinance provides the following definition for such a club: "Over Twenty-one club: Any entertainment club which restricts its admission to persons age 21 years and over."

The Local owner Chip Greeno says they are not an over 21 club because they do not restrict admission. The Local invites patrons under the age of 21 to pay a cover charge of $150, except on Wednesdays, the night of the International Party, when it is reduced to a $5 cover.

Alderman Charles Romeo is the chairman of the Charter and Ordinance Committee and he said that some were under the impression that the Entertainment Club Ordinance banned underage patrons from bars. It does not, he explained. It only bars persons under 21 from an "over 21 club." Romeo said "I think some members further thought that, by defeating the amendment, it was clear that the board did not support 18+ events."

Romeo submitted a proposal at a meeting last week in order to clarify in the ordinances the city's policy of banning persons under 21 from Rutland bars. He says "the new ordinance is a standalone proposal. It is not an amendment to the current entertainment ordinance. That will stay as it is. Last summer the issue came before the board and the issue of an under 21 ban for bars was put on the backburner as other issues were dealt with. I wanted to take care of it before the election coming up in March. For me, this is an issue of 'what is the public policy in the City of Rutland?' A number of board member said last summer that it is the public policy that people under 21 are not allowed in bars. This proposal was introduced to clearly state and enforce that policy."

A public forum involving the Ordinance and Charter Committee saw supporters of the International Party pleading their case. Chip Greeno pointed to the fact that little problems had arisen from his under 21 gatherings at The Local. "The majority of the people coming to these are over 21. There's only a handful who are under. The point is, they can all go together." The Local hires many security guards to ensure no one under 21 has access to alcohol or causes other problems. 

However, Police Chief James Baker was also there expressing his concerns. In a phone interview with The Mountain Times Chief Baker said, "Vermont leads the country in binge drinking and underage drinking." When asked about the International Party specifically he said, "Since I've been here for a year, we've had no issues, but we've had limited exposure. As I understand it, before I got here there were a couple of establishments that tried it and there were a lot of problems," Baker said, adding "As the Police Chief, I don't support underage clubs where alcohol is present… It's not a good policy to have underage kids mixed in with adults that are drinking alcohol. It's not a good policy from a public safety standpoint."

Hahn, feels like the International Party is not the problem and, actually, has something important to offer: culture. "There are many young adults who are from Rutland who are well-behaved and attend the party. They have been exposed to a whole new culture, musically, and that can't be so bad. The International Party is not the problem... city's time and money could be better spent in other ways."

It seems that there may be hope for the International Party and other such 18+ events in the City of Rutland. There is interest among certain city officials to allow for a permit process that may grant temporary 18 and up status to a city bar or club. Such an allowance could be viewed on a case-by-case basis and reevaluated if problems arise.

As it stands now, the Ordinance and Charter Committee voted to submit the above mentioned proposal to the full board at its next scheduled meeting, Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.