Philly’s New Block Party Rule: Talk to the Cops First

The Streets Department announced new rules on Thursday requiring people who want to close off a street to get an OK from their local police district before — rather than after — applying for a permit.

Green Street Coffee Roasters’s 2013 fundraising block party held in support of the Fresh Artists program. | Photo: Flickr user dubofadubofadub, licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0

There’s now one more roadblock in getting the road blocked for, well, your road’s block party.

The city’s Streets Department announced Thursday that applicants looking to secure a Street Event Permit from the department’s Right of Way Unit — for block parties, weddings, religious celebrations, and more — will need to get pre-approval from their local police district.

In a press release, the department says the change will “improve the integrity and efficiency of the program,” saying applicants will know if their bid is approved before spending money on the permit and party-related expenses. Before, local police districts would (or wouldn’t) green-light applications after they had already been processed and approved by the Streets Department.

Patrick Iffrig, a spokesperson for the Streets Department, said that previously the Police Department would provide them with a list of “problem blocks” to be flagged for immediate disapproval. Iffrig told Philly Mag in an interview that if they received an application for a block that was not flagged, they would start their approval process, as long as payment and proper documentation was provided.

“As the year goes on and the police identified more problem blocks that we were unaware of, we were issuing permits that would go out and subsequent denials were coming back from the Police department saying that … they could not have the party on that particular day,” Iffrig said.

In these cases, the department would facilitate a refund to the denied applicant for their permit fees.

“The problem is, a lot of these people had already purchased other items that you can’t get refunded for, say food, equipment, bouncy houses. So they were out money from their own pockets,” Iffrig said. “It’s kind of hit a head this summer as some of the districts were experiencing higher crime in their area and they began some blanket denials for their districts and we had a lot of upset people.”

Only applications submitted with the pre-approval form will be processed, the department said. If you submit online, Iffrig said, your application will be routed directly to your police district office for an OK before Streets processes it. If you apply in person, you’ll need the police approval in hard copy.

Any application submitted prior to August 1st will be processed according to the old rules.

The change is relevant for plenty of party planners given the fact that Philly throws more block parties than even Chicago, L.A., or New York, according to a 2013 City Paper report. Police pre-approval or not, the city has some parameters to make the open-air events run smoothly for everyone involved.

Have your application in early — 21 days before you plan to get down — and you’ll pay $25 in fees, rather than $60. Besides Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, only Saturdays and Sundays will be approved. And clean up afterwards — or you can expect the department to give you a hard time the next time you submit an application.

And your safest bet is probably to nix the famous Philly dumpster lagoon.