Call them idiots. Call them SMASHED. Just don’t call them pub crawlers.
On March 3, approximately 500 people grabbed shopping carts and raced from the Front Page in Dupont Circle to Chief Ike’s Mambo Room in Adams Morgan as part of the second annual D.C. Idiotarod, an event sponsored by the Society of Mature Adults Seeking to Help, Entertain, and Donate (SMASHED). Dupont Circle resident Ellen Shortill says that she, along with some friends, founded SMASHED about a year ago to find fun ways to raise money for charity. “Our mission as a group is really, really simple. We realized we spent too much time socializing,” she says. “We realized if we could harness a small amount of that, we could do something really good.”
In 2006, SMASHED events like the Rec Room Olympics and a mustache-growing competition raised money for the House of Ruth, which provides services to homeless women, and Capital Queen for a Day, which serves kids with cancer. The first Idiotarod, which benefited the Arlington Food Assistance Center, had a “mildly pathetic” turnout according to Shortill, netting only about $500 for the charity. But she calls this year’s Idiotarod a stunning success. She says that participants who paid the $50-per-team fee helped raise more than $4,000 for the center.ï»¿ï»¿
But did the event violate any liquor laws?
As they raced to Adams Morgan with Popemobile-, rocket ship–, and Double Dare–themed shopping carts, runners participated in all forms of silliness and sabotage. “They were encouraged to earn time credits by performing feats of bravery or ridiculous tricks,” Shortill says.
Some residents, however, accused the event of being essentially a pub crawl—something that’s not allowed in most Adams Morgan establishments. At first blush, says Adams Morgan advisory neighborhood commissioner Mindy Moretti, the Idiotarod “had all the visual signs of a pub crawl. They were going from bar to bar and drinking inside the establishments.”
According to the alcohol board’s regulations, a pub crawl is defined “as an organized group of establishments within walking distance which offer discounted alcoholic drinks during a specified period of time.” Adams Morgan establishments like Tom Tom and Adams Mill Bar & Grill, for example, have agreed in writing not to participate in pub crawls. You can stumble through the doors of as many bars along 18th Street as you like, but if you’re with an organized group and heading to one of those establishments, that Heineken better not be half-price.
Shortill says the Idiotarod is a race, not a pub crawl. During the planning stages for this year’s event, she says, she looked into whether she needed a special event permit. She was told by one of the many D.C. agencies ï»¿she contacted (she does not recall which) that she did not need one because fewer than 200 participants were expected. Then, a day before the event, 40 additional teams signed on. In a meeting with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) officials that day, she says, they discussed a number of factors that could give the appearance of a pub crawl. So Shortill made some adjustments. For example, she says, “no official activities took place inside bar properties,” and “there were no drink specials available exclusively for our participants.” SMASHED was also careful to make sure that “no special requests were made” regarding establishments’ hours of operation, she adds.
Nic Makris, general manager at Tom Tom, confirms that there were no drink specials at the bar that day. “We have a drink special through the weekend,” he says, “but we have the same special every weekend.” Al Jirikowic, the owner of Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, which hosted an awards ceremony for Idiotarod participants at the end of the race, says he was careful not to cross the pub crawl line. “We made sure it wasn’t a pub crawl….We didn’t have any relationship with any other bars.” The event at Chief Ike’s was a private party, which makes it distinct from a pub crawl, Shortill says. “Anybody can have a private party,” she says. Well, most of the time. “The issue is whether it’s the last stop of a pub crawl or the sole party of the evening,” an ABRA official says.
But despite Shortill’s attempts to apply some order to the chaos, the Idiotarod received other complaints. On Feb. 28, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which watchdogs the activities of beer and liquor companies, posted a press release stating that the Idiotarod encouraged excessive drinking and criticized SMASHED for seeking sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch.ï»¿ Shortill says that SMASHED attempted to get Bud Light to provide T-shirts, but that request was declined. “We had zero sponsorship for this event,” she says.
Some Adams Morgan residents also complained they were forced to play slalom with shopping carts in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. Adams Morgan advisory neighborhood commissioner Bryan Weaver says that as soon as the Idiotarod participants made their way to the neighborhood, concerned constituents began calling him on his cell phone.
He was “hammered,” he wrote in an e-mail to Shortill, “by e-mails and photos of your event…from angry, angry, angry Adams Morgan residents of all ages. Namely issues of garbage, ‘borrowed’ shopping carts left on the street, and from one person that was hit by ‘egg goo’ from an egg fight on 18th Street.”
After reviewing the issue, Weaver says he does not believe the Idiotarod amounted to a pub crawl. “But it was on the fringe,” he says.
In fact, it’s a fine enough line that ABRA is looking into the matter. “We are presently investigating it,” says ABRA director Maria Delaney. “If there are violations found, they will be going to the board.”
Adam Packham is a true Hank Williams III fan. He’s such a fan, in fact, that he could be bleeding from the head and still have a blast, so long as he was watching Williams perform. According to Packham, that’s exactly what happened at the Black Cat on Oct. 8, 2006.
That night, Williams—grandson of Hank Williams and son of Hank Williams Jr.—started the show by playing his “rebel country.” At first, the crowd was pretty mellow, ï»¿says Packham, a 28-year-old from Winchester, Va.. Then the musician switched to some harder stuff. As the music got rougher, so did the crowd. “They were kind of bumping and pushing and shoving,” Packham recalls.
All of a sudden, Packham says, a “chubby, shy guy with glasses” smacked him “upside the head” with a beer bottle. “I didn’t really get a good look at him because after he hit me with the bottle, he hit me again, two or three times,” Packham says. An ABRA report says the bottle-wielding suspect fled the club following the attack.
“I guess whoever the guy was didn’t like me,” Packham says. He ended up getting 15 stitches and says he was dizzy for about a week after the incident. The injury wasn’t bad enough to kill Packham’s buzz, however. “I was happy when I left,” he says, adding he would definitely see Williams in concert again. “I’m not going to let a couple stitches in my head get in my way of a good time.”
Unfortunately for Packham, Hank Williams III won’t be playing the Black Cat again anytime soon. Following the incident, club owner Dante Ferrando informed ABRA investigators that Williams had played his last show at the Black Cat. “I don’t think I could have them back,” he says. “The crowd was not well-behaved. They were quick to fight.”
Ferrando says it’s nothing personal. “I’ve done Hank Williams III twice and seen him at the 9:30 Club, and the crowd hasn’t been a problem.” It’s just that when incidents like these happen, he has to draw the line. “There are some bands I don’t do. It’s just that if the band has an aggressive or macho vibe, even if it’s something that would make money, it’s not worth it,” he says.
Among the bands that have been on the banned list is the Insane Clown Posse, which sprays the crowd with soda at shows and attracts audiences of “underage boys who are very aggressive,” Ferrando says. About a decade ago, for safety’s sake, and to protect his sound equipment, he decided to pass on the Posse. “Doing live music, you really deal with a variety of crowds, and you have to make decisions,” he says. “You can’t piss off your neighbors; you don’t want to piss your staff off….If it pisses everybody off, and it’s a pain in the ass, it’s probably not worth doing.”
Packham, however, says Ferrando shouldn’t hold what happened to him against Hank Williams III. “You can’t say there’s something wrong with the shows because of one bad apple….I want it to be known that he is an excellent musician, and he should definitely be allowed to play wherever he can.”
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