Washington Avenue Armory told to halt parties after foam free-for-all
Updated 9:12 p.m.
ALBANY The Washington Avenue Armory is banned from putting on dance party events, at least temporarily, until its attorney talks with city officials later this week.
The city issued a cease and desist order to the Armory after a crowd waiting outside the venue during the Barstool Blackout Tour “foam party” on Thursday night got unruly and three police officers were injured.
Foam parties are popular at nightclubs, where foam machines fill a dance floor with a few feet of bubbles and young people, sometimes wearing swimsuits, dance in the suds as loud music plays and lights and lasers flash.
Police arrested seven after people waiting in line began to be crushed against barricades. Police started dispersing the crowd of nearly 2,000 people and several became combative.
The city’s order throws into question the status of two Halloween-themed parties planned for this weekend. Tickets are being sold now for Masquerave on Friday and the fourth annual Festival of the Dead on Saturday, but Armory spokesman Michael Corts said he’s not sure what will happen with the parties.
Corts said the city’s letter orders the Armory to stop holding events other than sporting events. But the Armory has been holding other types of events for “a couple decades,” Corts said, and never had a problem with the city before.
“Last Thursday was an isolated incident, and nothing like this has ever happened in the past here,” Corts said. “From my knowledge, we’re approved to host events outside of sporting.”
The venue hosted a book fair recently and holds concerts attracting as many as 4,000 people.
A special use permit does allow the venue to hold concerts, said Jeffery Jamison, director of buildings and regulation compliance for the city, but the Armory still needs to secure a cabaret license in addition to the special use permit to have live entertainment.
The Armory has applied for a cabaret license but has not been approved. Jamison said a record in the city’s file shows the Armory filed an application and dated it July 31. The record did not say what date the city received the application, Jamison said.
“We weren’t sure what type of events they were having,” Jamison said.
The Armory is not authorized to act as a nightclub, he said.
Corts argued that the events are concerts, not a nightclub, because they hold live music acts, charge people concert prices to get in and spend “tens of thousands of dollars” to put on the show.
The Armory will do what it needs to do to stay open, he said.
“We’re going to comply with whatever the city imposes.”
According to Corts, the crowd Thursday got rowdy when people were turned away from entering the party because the event promoter wanted to let everyone in at the same time after doors opened at 9 p.m., a later opening time than Armory events usually have.
The Armory hires up to 30 security guards the night of an event, with three of them usually uniformed police officers and one uniformed police sergeant. The city police officers are paid by the Armory for the work and are not on the taxpayers’ dime.
Corts said since the incident, venue officials have changed their procedures and will open the doors earlier and allow people to enter as they arrive.
“We won’t hold the line,” Corts said. Also, three entrances will be open, with people entering depending on how they bought their tickets.
Those who have a ticket in hand will enter one way; people who bought tickets online and have to pick them up at the “will call” booth will go in another way; and a third entrance will be available for people buying their tickets the night of the event.
Foam parties are not inherently rowdy events, Corts said — the Armory held one a few weeks ago that also attracted a few thousand people but caused no issues. In the Armory’s case, the dance floor isn’t filled with foam, but foam machines spray suds out over the crowd as people dance.
After the 10 p.m. incident outside the venue, the Thursday foam party continued until 1 a.m. with no problems inside the building, Corts said.
Although adults may be unfamiliar with foam parties, the parties are not new. The 1968 film “The Party” starring Peter Sellers featured a foam party scene, where tuxedoed men and women in gowns drunkenly frolicked in waist-deep foam.