Summer block parties: More than just party planning

Jun 1, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. ET

Block parties are increasing in popularity, but all too often, plans are put on hold or parties are shut down for safety violations and failure to follow the rules. Before you plan the perfect party that will never be, make sure you know how to do it right.

Summer block party
Photo credit: andipantz via iStockphoto

Block parties are a fun way to connect with neighbors in a relaxed atmosphere, but you can't just "decide" to have one. There are rules in place to make sure everyone stays safe — and a few extra fun services some cities provide that you may not know about.

Get a party permit

Tip! Each year in the first week of August is National Night Out. Many cities offer free block party permits on this night. But you'll need to apply as quickly as possible. The permits are first-come, first-served.

Before you can throw a block party, you have to get permission from the local government. Which office you contact varies. In some places, it may be the police department, whereas in others it may be the parks department or another office. They may require you to apply for a permit and even get a certain majority of your neighbors to sign a petition. You can get the specific rules from them, but we recommend getting those rules at least four months in advance to give you time to get all the elements in place.

Other permits and requirements

In many locations, you may also be required to get a noise permit and/or buy or rent barricades to block off the area. In some areas, you may be responsible for a traffic-control plan, while in others, the government will take care of it.

You'll also be responsible for cleanup, either by assigning your own crew of residents or by paying for it to be done by a service hired by the government. Either way, we recommend having plenty of trash containers placed in multiple areas on the block.

Before you begin planning, you should also check alcohol requirements. Generally, alcohol is allowed on private property, but prohibited on public property. Consider buying cans or kegs instead of anything in glass bottles or asking those who do want beverages that come in glass to pour them into plastic glasses.

In many areas, you may be required to ask attendees to sign a hold-harmless agreement before you can even receive the permit.

Special police and fire issues

Find out whether you're required to make any special notifications to the police and fire departments about your block party. You may even be required to hire police personnel or another qualified security firm to be on hand.

The fun part about this requirement is that in many areas, the police and fighters may have special activities they'll supply for your party. Some police departments will come out and fingerprint the kids and if you apply early enough, you could score a fire truck tour for the kiddos.

Keeping it legal

The most important thing is to contact your local government and find out all the rules before you start planning. They vary from city to city, and one accidentally ignored rule can cancel your party and leave you out any nonrefundable fees.

More on block parties

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Bring back the block party: 3 Creative themes you have to try
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