Taxpayers could pay as much as $124,000 for police officer overtime for the 220 officers who will patrol the streets this Saturday for LepreCon, according to Police Chief Ken Ferrante.
Damon Trifeletti, CEO of WeSell.com, who organized this year’s St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl on March 4, said 27 bars and restaurants are participating, and he expects roughly 20,000 people to “celebrate, come together, and have fun.”
Ferrante estimated the maximum cost to taxpayers to keep the revelry under control at $98,000 in overtime for Hoboken officers and $26,000 for outside law enforcement.
The “LepreCon” event – now simultaneously billed on the web as “The Official Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day Celebration” – takes place on the first Saturday of March, with local participating bars offering drink specials.
The event came into being after the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee (an independent group not connected to the city’s administration) discontinued the traditional parade in 2012 because city officials wanted to move it to a Wednesday to discourage the house parties and bar events that accompanied it.
The event was always held on the first Saturday of the month to avoid competition with other town’s parades.
The St. Patrick’s Parade Committee decided having it on a weekend night was “unreasonable.”
That’s when independent promoters, such as Trifeletti, who lives in New York, began hosting events that day instead.
Last year the St. Patrick’s Day-related festivities resulted in 432 calls for police and emergency services, 35 people being sent to the hospital (mostly for intoxication), and 15 arrests, four more than the year prior.
According to Ferrante, the number of participants has been “trending down the past few years.”
“We have had years when there were over 50,000 people in the city, but that’s not been the case recently.”
Ferrante said when the parade was canceled, “almost all police officers were relieved.” There were sexual assaults, fights, and other crimes. “We would have over 250 officers on the street and we still couldn’t control it,” he said.
He said in the past his officers were busiest between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. He is hoping this year, revelers will tire out early, since several bars will start serving alcohol as early as 9 a.m. with “kegs and eggs” events and the temperature is supposed to be colder.
He also said he expects the crowd could be smaller this year because Nutley will have its parade the same day.
He said this year he will have officers spread through out the city in five different commands.
“We will have officers on condensed patrols on first street, near the PATH station, and on Washington between First and Fourth streets,” as well as officers in northern and western Hoboken for “people who wander into those residential areas,” from around 8 a.m. until about 4 a.m. the following day.
“History dictates how we deploy and station officers,” he said. For example, local eateries and diners become popular after about 2 a.m. and he will have “officers assigned detail areas, cameras on those areas, and an extreme police presence” during that time.
While LepreCon is a busy day for officers, Ferrante said SantaCon and Halloween rank higher on his list too.
“Those have become a lot more popular recently,” said Ferrante. “We have had bar owners tell us they make more money those weekends than LepreCon.”
“The bottom line is about making the day safe.” – Chief Ken Ferrante
Ferrante said his main goal is keeping everyone safe.
“The bottom line is about making the day safe,” said Ferrante. “We just don’t want criminal behavior.”
To participants in the day of drinking, Ferrante said, “Please be safe and be considerate of the people in this town. Make sure you have a safe ride home. We don’t want any DWI crashes.”
This year’s crawl
According to Trifeletti, his company creates these types of events in over 150 cities throughout the U.S. and bar, club, and restaurant owners approached him after the parade was canceled to do the same in Hoboken.
“I had been doing pub crawls in Hoboken after the parade for a few years,” said Trifeletti. “I would go to the parade and tell people to come to the pub crawl after. When the parade was canceled the bars came to me and said ‘It is a big day for us and we would really be crushed without those customers,’ and asked me to help. Everyone really came together to organize these pub-crawls… People still want to go out and we provide the option.”
According to Trifeletti, this year’s pub-crawl is from 9 a.m to 2 p.m.
Trifeletti said they wanted to start earlier this year to “help with lines and crowds.”
“We found everyone would come at 2 p.m. and there would be lines down the block to get in,” said Trifeletti, who said he thinks people will come earlier for the breakfasts some bars are hosting with DJs and live music.
Dmitry Strok, marketing manager for WeSell.com, the parent company of the event website hobokenstpatricksday.com, said, “We are making a strong effort to start a lot earlier this year to help with crowds.”
“We try to bring people in earlier so people tire out and then the next wave can come in,” said Strok.
Participants can purchase all access passes on their event page that will get them into bars for free between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“After that, bars can do what they want and start charging at the door,” said Trifeletti.
Strok said one of the big things they are always focused on is safety.
“We want people to be safe,” he said. “We don’t want to back up traffic or leave streets a mess. We want people to have a good time and get in the holiday spirit. It traditionally celebrates St. Patrick’s Day but it is also about the unofficial opening of spring.”
Strok and Trifeletti agreed there used to be more participants when the parade was in town.
“We aren’t half as big as when the parade was here,” said Trifeletti. “We usually only get about 20,000 people now. When the parade was here everything was filled and chaotic. There is nothing going on uptown now.” (The farthest venue uptown is the Turtle Club at 10th and Park, according to the event website.)
Trifeletti declined to comment on how much he and his company stand to make on ticket sales for the event, but said they aim to keep their prices low and use most of it for marketing and advertising.
Prices for all access passes range from about $7 to about $30.
Participating bars this year include Hoboken Bar & Grill, House of Que, Ainsworth, Mills Tavern, Biggie’s, Texas Arizona, Birch, Cadillac Cantina, Tally Ho, Village Pourhouse, The Shannon, Willie McBride’s, Arthur's Tavern, Scotland Yard, 1Republik, Coco Havana Cafe, Hotel Victor, Mikie Squared, Scotland Yard, Black Bear Bar and more.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.