About 2,000 people have signed up for the St. Patrick’s Day-themed pub crawl in Arlington on Mar. 21, fewer than half as many as those who saturated the Clarendon corridor to celebrate last year.
Twelve bars will participate in the event, which will be governed by a permitting process put in place last year by the Arlington County Board after a series of pub crawls brought higher-than-usual numbers of drunken revelers off the boulevard and into the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
Arlington’s 2014 Shamrock Crawl drew more than 5,000 people to the boulevard over seven hours in the afternoon and evening, resulting in behavior that would not meet the standards of anyone’s whiskey-sipping Irish grandmother.
Police said there were 25 arrests, 10 reports of public urination — including one on a police squad car with officers inside — and an incident involving an inebriated, naked woman who showed up at the county jail to bail out her equally drunk husband. She ended up in jail for the night, too.
In June, 6,000 revelers turned up at the All American Bar Crawl, including one young man dressed only in socks who rammed a car into three parked vehicles. Police used a stun gun to stop him.
The behavior prompted police to ask whether the organized bar-hopping tours — which were costing the county police $15,000 to $20,000 in overtime — should be put in timeout.
The County Board decided to require event sponsors to pick up the tab for police presence and cleanup, and mandated that patrons must register in advance to attend bar crawls.
Alex Lopez, of Project DC Events, the sponsor of the Arlington crawls, said things went well at the Halloween event, the first event carried out under the new permit system. About 4,000 people participated. With the added police presence, there were few complaints.
“We had only nine arrests,” Arlington Police Capt. Kamran Afzal said. “Once we’ve had a few more [events] under our belt, I’ll be able to say whether it’s working or not working.”
Lopez said the organizers’ strategy this year is to split the St. Patrick’s Day crowd, staging one event in the District this past Friday and another in Arlington on Saturday.
Arlington police increased their presence along the Clarendon-Wilson corridor this weekend, and will continue to do so on St. Patrick’s Day, which is Tuesday, and Saturday.
County officials and most neighborhood residents say they do not want to dissuade the affluent 24-to-35-year-old crowd from spending money in Arlington, or to consider banning the events.
Loria Porcaro, president of the Lyon Village Civic Association, said the area welcomes revelers, as long as police are monitoring the event and the size of the crowd is reasonable.
Neighbors, police and bar owners regularly meet and talk over incidents, she said, which helps keep matters in perspective.
“I don’t think we ever had the reputation of Georgetown in its heyday or Adams Morgan in its heyday,” she said. “We love people coming and having a fun, safe time while they’re here.”
But there are limits.
“Zombies attacking our neighborhood,” was the title of a topic on the listserv for the Ashton Heights neighborhood, under which more than a dozen residents wrote. They were reacting to a couple of incidents in the past month.
A drunk lost on his way home from the bars had ended up on a resident’s porch. In another incident, a bar patron was found sleeping on a resident’s dining-room floor, reportedly having vomited onto a $1,000 rug, police said.
“I don’t think it happens often, but it happens enough so it’s worrisome to people,” said Nancy Hopper, who has lived near the corridor with her husband for 42 years. About two years ago, someone tried all three exterior doors in her house, knocking loudly.
At dawn, she spotted the culprit asleep on her deck chairs; the police told her that he thought he was locked out of his house.
“Our long-time homeowners don’t want a reputation that their neighborhoods are not family-friendly,” said Mary H. Hynes (D), the Irish American County Board chairman who lives just a block off the corridor. “We’re all talking and listening to each other.”