Residents and business owners in Playa Flamingo are calling on municipal officials for help in stopping an annual New Year’s party that is expected to bring in more than 5,000 people for seven days.
Residents say that the young Tico partiers from San José besiege the town consecutive nights until dawn, leave garbage, refuse and vomit in their wake and ruin the most lucrative week of the year.Ulrik Oldenberg, owner of a hotel and condominium building in Playa Flamingo, said that one business hosts the party each year. The event has been growing into the thousands, lasting for days and normally clogging the only thoroughfare in and out of town with drunk teenagers, he said.
“Everybody has the right to operate, but this party inconveniences the whole town,” said Oldenberg. “It’s benefiting one business and damaging all of the others… it’s an unruly mob.”
Some community members are especially vehement since they learned from the municipality that the party has been granted a five-day permit this year.
Residents have met with the municipal council which said that the mayor has the power to revoke the permit.
The community is waiting for the mayor to make a decision, but residents have threatened to take the case to the Sala IV constitutional court if the mayor does not cancel the party.
For Oldenberg and most people complaining about the event, the problem stems from the location of the party, which takes place at a bar called Amberes. This bar is located at the beginning of the main street in town, which is also the only path for cars to enter and exit the peninsula on which the town sits.
For more than 25 years, a bar called Amberes has been hosting a New Year’s party that usually attracted between 200 and 300.
Oldenberg said that in recent years when the bar has been leased to party organizations in San José, the crowd has swelled into the thousands with thousands of cars as well. He added that the bar is far too small to fit all of these new people, many of whom are underage anyway, so the vast majority of the crowd drinks outside.He said that the bar and party planners do not put portable bathrooms, garbage cans or any necessities for large events, which results in partiers throwing trash, urinating, defecating and vomiting wherever they can.
“It’s us and the community cleaning up afterwards,” said Oldenberg.
Oldenberg said that the party planner last year was Life Productions. Repeated calls to Life Productions and Amberes went unanswered.
With thousands of people and cars at this point in the road, Oldenberg said that no one can enter or leave while this party is going on, which drastically cuts down on the most lucrative week for the community.
Oldenberg said that he averaged $800 per day in net profit during that week last year where he used to average $3,000 per day.
Additionally, hotel owners report that guests have promised not to come back to Playa Flamingo because the party blockades tourists and residents alike in town and noisily continues until dawn.
“We have people paying premium rates for hotels that week,” said Oldenberg.
Community members also said that the crowd is too rowdy to disperse. Four years ago, a local police chief wrote a statement saying that his unit risked personal harm if they went up to view the party permits, they said.
This year police expect between 5,000 and 7,000 partiers, according to Oldenberg, adding that local police have requested 50 Fuerza Pública officers to augment the permanent 12 and that the regional police chief requests 300 to 400 riot police to control the crowd.
Additionally, Oldenberg said that one woman was killed in town last year when she was hit by a drunk driver from this party.
“You can’t compromise on something like that,” said Oldenberg.
Oldenberg and others have investigated the policy of renting property outside of town, but none of the owners wanted to assume the liability for the party. So, Oldenberg was elected by residents to get the municipality to cancel the party altogether,
If the mayor does not cancel the event, community members have hired a lawyer and collected $5,000 so far to appeal to the Sala IV to cancel the party.