Overcrowded RH party still talk on the town

Laurie Swope Photo
The March 6 opening party for the Restoration Hardware Gallery on Newbury Street, at the former location of Louis, in Boston. Fire officials stopped allowing guests in due to concerns about overcrowding.

The talk of the town Thursday was still Wednesday night’s overstuffed opening party at Restoration Hardware on the corner of Berkeley and Newbury streets. The fancy VIP shindig, which celebrated the retailer’s new space in the old Louis Boston building, included an appearance by actor Jeremy Renner — as well as members of the Boston Fire Department, who had to shut down the entrances because the building was over capacity, with partygoers still lined up to get in.

Elements of Style blogger and tastemaker Erin Gates tweeted throughout the night and let her more than 14,000 followers know how messy the party became in just a few short hours. “Never have I seen something with so much potential go up in flames so quickly. Not one drink, bite to eat, or moment to enjoy.” She added that she was “literally horrified by the poor planning and dangerous amount of people at that party. Resto should be embarrassed.” (Yes, by “Resto,” she means Restoration Hardware.)

Things weren’t much better outside. After people exited the party, some waited for more than an hour to get their cars. Bruins star Andrew Ference and his wife, Krista, were among the VIPs who planned an early exit. They complained about not being able to move much during the event (although Krista admitted she was excited that this new Restoration Hardware — now called RH — will sell a children’s line).


It’s unclear who’s taking the blame for the party’s inflated RSVPs. (One very elaborate invitation sent to The Boston Globe included an iPod Shuffle, featuring the music of British singer Edei, who was slated to perform at the party.) As of Thursday afternoon, Restoration Hardware had not responded to our e-mails. But Kortenhaus Communications (who repped the party) and Rafanelli Events Management send out this statement:

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“We put the safety and comfort of guests first. We are very grateful for the support of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and the City of Boston to ensure the safety of all in attendance. We regret any inconvenience caused to guests.”

Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald told us that police on the scene called the fire department for help with the overcrowding at about 7:30 p.m. Once fire officials arrived, the store was told to cut the music and to stop serving food and drinks, which would prompt guests to leave. MacDonald said the party — originally scheduled to end at 8:30 p.m. — ended about 15 minutes earlier than it would have by the time crowds cleared. MacDonald added that Restoration Hardware pulled a one-day permit for the event, allowing for a capacity of 1,242 people, based on the size of the building. It was once home of the New England Museum of Natural History.

At around 7:30 p.m. we saw party planner Bryan Rafanelli looking very distressed and standing at the door trying to move along the bottleneck of departing guests. Rafanelli, best known for planning Chelsea Clinton’s wedding and coordinating events for President Barack Obama, was patting people on the back and giving them a half-hearted “thank you” as he tried to help them get out of the building. (At that point, a line of unhappy and confused would-be guests were warming up with complimentary bellinis on the building’s outdoor steps.)

Some local scenesters had a great sense of humor about the night. Former Stuff editorial director Erica Corsano, who’s now a style maven with The Real Real Boston, joked on Facebook with her pal and literary agent Esmond Harmsworth, “Anyone want to get bellinis and crowd into a Crate and Barrel later? It’s the hot thing to do here ;)” Copublisher of Bay Windows Sue O’Connell likewise quipped on Facebook: “The party guests at Restoration Hardware were hoping to get hammered, instead they got screwed.”