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Boston city councilors propose big fines for house parties that violate COVID-19 protocols

Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn.
Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Boston City Councilors Michael Flaherty and Ed Flynn want tougher fines for large house parties that violate the state’s pandemic-related protocols, asserting that the unruly gatherings have a “negative impact on the quality of life” for neighbors.

Flynn on Monday tweeted out a photo of a hearing order he and Flaherty filed, writing that fines ought to be set as high as $1,000 for the first offense, $2,000 for the second, and $3,000 for the third.

The hearing order laid out an alarming trend of parties across the city in clear violation of public health protocols.

“Even as more people are getting vaccinated and restaurants slowly reopening, neighbors have highlighted that these large house parties oftentimes include renters with absentee landlords, sometimes inviting 30 to 40 people,” the order said, adding that it’s “not only concerning with the potential to become super spreader events, but also due to the negative impact on the quality of life for our residents.”

That impact manifests itself in a number of different ways, per the order.

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“[T]hese inconsiderate partiers disturb neighbors with loud noise at all hours of the night, while also leaving behind trash and litter on the street, attracting rodents and pests to their neighbors’ property,” the document said. “Governor [Charlie] Baker’s previous COVID-19 Order No. 63 stated that no private gatherings be more than 10 persons in a single enclosed, indoor space,” with failure to comply carrying a possible fine of up to $500.

Despite Baker’s order, the document said, “pandemic fatigue” has given way to large parties, including one weekend in Southie where police received 600 calls for disturbances.

Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty.
Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

And, the councilors said in the order, that $500 levy for violators isn’t stiff enough.

They wrote that “we need to talk about increased fines and accountability for property owners who allow this rude behavior,” and that “stricter enforcement” is warranted.

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City officials, the order said, should “look to issue increased fines, perhaps starting at $1,000 for a first offense ... $2,000 for a second offense, and $3,000 for a third offense.”

It wasn’t immediately clear when the City Council will schedule a hearing.

Sophia F. Wang, Flynn’s policy director, said in an e-mail Tuesday that the hearing order will be introduced this week, and they plan to have the hearing as soon as possible.

Officials have previously highlighted the issue of house parties in the pandemic era.

Then-Mayor Martin J. Walsh told reporters in September the city had recently seen “an increase in house parties,” and he urged people not to host or attend them.

Addressing college students directly, Walsh said, “You want to be treated as adults? Well then act [like] it.”

“You wanted to go to school here because your college is one of the greatest in the country,” Walsh continued. “Then we’re asking you to be responsible.”

Walsh, who left the city to serve as President Biden’s labor secretary, said at the time he was frustrated because “here we are today, laying down millions of dollars to open school. We have businesses on the verge of bankruptcy. We have restaurants that need to open up. We have art venues that need to open up.”

He told reporters a month later, “We are going to be cracking down.”

However, Flynn and Flaherty’s order said, “[W]e continue to hear an overwhelming number of reports of large house parties.”

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Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.