| How to put on a legal-ish party
And get away with it!
FREE PARTY LINKS
Update March 2007: Please note that this guide is currently being updated following changes in the licensing law which mean that even private parties and private members clubs need to have a public entertainments licence (unless it's a really small scale birthday/ wedding party etc.). The other major legal change being that the Criminal Justice Act now applies to both indoor and outdoor events
Even in the CJA-dominated party scene it is still possible to put on an underground party AND get away with it.
However there are a lot of pitfalls along the way, and when you make a decision to go ahead with it, you have to be prepared to involve yourself in something which is going to take up most of your time in the weeks preceding the event.
The first and obviously the most important thing you have to do is find a suitable venue. We happened to know someone who owned a warehouse and we were able to rent it for one night for a couple of hundred pounds. When you first look at the venue, look for residential areas nearby who might be disturbed by noise. It will certainly help you if you are located in an industrial area or next to a railway line or noisy road. Avoid busy areas which could attract unwanted attention.
The venue will need to be secured and a safe environment for people to party in. It will also need adequate soundproofing, and it will need to have suitable toilet facilities for your expected crowd. As a guideline, to avoid over-long queues and other unpleasantness you will need one toilet for every 80 people. If the venue does not have enough toilets you should consider using portaloos which can be hired for about 80 pounds per toilet. We used Loo-Hire (www.loohire.co.uk) who were excellent. The venue MUST also have running cold water.
You will also need to ensure that the building is fire safe. It should have several possible exits. It is important that there is no rubbish, broken glass, or dangerous obstructions in, or in the immediate environment of, the building. This can give the environmental health reason to shut the party down.
Anything in the building which can potentially cause harm needs to be cleared away. Generally you should try to ensure that the main areas are clear of all obstructions and that the floor is swept clear of any rubble. You should also cover all windows with any soundproofing material you can find - old mattresses are ideal.
You can hire fire extinguishers for about 30 pounds for 4. You will need red fire extinguishers for normal fires and at least one black CO2 extinguisher for electrical fires. You should also get a fire blanket and emergency exit signs which should be hung above all exits. These can be bought from the hire company for about 2.50 each.
Once you have your venue your next step is to decide what night to hold the party on. We chose New Year's Eve which is of course an excellent time to hold a party such as this! Try to pick a night which has something else going on to attract the council/police's attention rather than your peace-loving party.
Once you have decide the night the next step is to publicize the party, It's fine to flyer the party but to stay within the law remember that your event is a PRIVATE PARTY. That means that you don't want to put the address of the party or a price on the flyers. This may seem to defeat the object of flyering but you will still get phone calls if your promotion is good enough. It is very important not to include the price as otherwise you are providing ample evidence to prove that your party is not a legal event.
Remember it is at this stage that most parties can be stopped. It only takes one visit from the police and a warning and you may be put off the whole idea entirely. When people phone make sure you stress it is a private, invite only party, and no, there won't be tickets on the door! Ask people questions about where they go clubbing to ascertain they are genuine. Do NOT give out the address of the party to anyone other than ticket holders!
Meanwhile, you should be arranging your security staff. You will need one bouncer for every 150 people. Remember that the bouncers are there to protect your party against gatecrashers and to sort out any trouble and in my opinion it is essential to get professionals who are trained in first aid. There are plenty of firms who can supply excellent staff and they can really help people to feel safe and secure at a party.
When you come to the night of the party, have invites prepared for nearby residents. The key is to wait for a critical mass of people to arrive (100 or so) before you turn up the music. You should also send a friendly face around at this time (not too late) to inform the immediate neighbours that there is a private party occurring and giving them a number to contact if they have any queries. We told them that it was a firm's Christmas party - it doesn't hurt to dress it up as something official. If the neighbours are on your side, they will not complain and your party will go ahead uninterrupted.
If the police arrive, you will have to persuade them that they don't want to shut the party down. Remember that for them it is quite a hassle to stop a party of several hundred people and they will principally want to assure themselves on safety issues. Be ready to show them all of your fire extinguishers, emergency exits, and first aid boxes. Make sure you stress that it is a one-off private party. If possible show them your security people's certifications. If the police can be assured that you are responsible the chances are that they will let the party continue.
One thing police really hate are illegal bars. If you must sell alcohol, do not under any circumstances have tills, cash boxes etc behind your bar! Have a separate bar from which tickets are purchased which can then be exchanged for drinks nearby. This is to exploit a legal loophole where you do not need a license to give away alcohol as a raffle prize. Technically when someone buys a ticket they are entering a raffle which they then automatically win, the prize being one drink.
Lastly remember that it is the environmental health that is are the scourge of the underground party-goer. With the right preparation you can ensure that should they visit they will not be able to shut you down on safety grounds. In any case, as an organiser you have a responsibility to your party-goers to make sure their night is a safe one.
(article by DJ Matt, Jun 1999)
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