***AFTER THE RAVE***
Town, 12 Crane handle fallout of party busts
July 12, 2010
BY RYAN GRANNAN-DOLL
SOUTHBRIDGE — In the wake of a massive police bust at his business, and faced with the possibility that his liquor license could be suspended, Gabriel McCarthy insists the rave party at 12 Crane on Saturday was great for the community.
"I still maintain this is a positive venture for Southbridge. The naysayers have blown it out of proportion," McCarthy said Monday of the jungle-themed party that attracted 400 people and ended with the arrests of five people, including his son, John, on a bevy of assault and drug charges.
The 20-year-old John McCarthy who faces five drugs charges, for dealing and possessing cocaine, as well as drug activity near a school.
According to Police Chief Daniel Charette, he was helping to organize a party put on by Rhode Island-based event production company Tight Crew. Owner Keith Woods said John McCarthy does not work for the company.
Three partygoers were treated for injuries at 12 Crane Saturday. Two were transported to Harrington Memorial Hospital for injuries, according to Fire Lt. Jason Cantara. One girl burned her hands when she was shoved into an enclosed fire pit, according to Deputy Fire Chief Mark DiFronzo.
The rave has caused widespread controversy both in town and among those who were there and claim police were overly aggressive in responding to concerns of drug activity at the party.
"It was pretty scary," said Kyle Tansley, 18, a Brattleboro, Vt. resident who will enter Champlain College this fall. "In some instances the police were being a little bit more aggressive than they should have been."
Tansley described one instance when an officer approached him and his friend, who were drinking from a hose, demanding to know if they were doing drugs.
"At that point I didn't have pants or shirt on," Tansley said, explaining he had no place to hide drugs.
To comply with them, Tansley said, he raised his hands and opened his month to prove had nothing on him.
Police Sgt. Carlos Dingui, the officer in charge of the three-man detail force Tight Crew hired for the event, said officers only arrested those engaging in drug activity.
"Any of the subjects that were arrested was a reactive approach from the officers," Dingui said. "No one was searching anybody unless they witnessed a [drug] transaction."
Dingui also lent support to the party, saying the crowd was mostly civil.
"It wasn't all negative. I would say 80 percent of that crowd was respectful," he said. "I took away some good memories from them."
Still, Gabriel McCarthy's liquor license might be suspended, as Charette as has called for.
The embattled owner defended his business, saying liquor was only being sold inside in both the Dark Horse Tavern and Cannery Hall concert venue portions of the building. Dingui, however, said his officers personally witnessed booze activity outside of a small patio area.
"That is a violation," Dingui said.
The sergeant also said the license could be temporarily yanked because of John McCarthy's role in helping to organize the event. His father, who was at the party selling water and smoothies with his wife, Margaret Morrissey, said his son is not an employee of the business.
Police never observed alcohol being sold to minors, Dingui said, and McCarthy's liquor license is up-to-date.
As of Monday, no hearing had been set to discuss the incident, according to Liquor Licensing Board Chairman Rinaldo Bernadone. He said he is still awaiting a stack and police of fire department reports before proceeding.
The next regular meeting, where the issue could arise, is scheduled for Thursday, July 22.
12 Crane does doesn't face sanctions from the Fire Department, according to Inspector Lt. Steven Lavoie.
A fire performer who showed up at the rave, however, was barred from doing his act and organizers were prohibited from placing decorations on the ceiling.
"I don't think we had any violations, due to prep work," Lavoie said.
DiFronzo said Gabriel McCarthy had the proper permit for the pit into which the girl fell.
As for other licenses, Gabriel McCarthy has an up-to-date entertainment license, which he showed a reporter Monday.
Aside from any municipal requirements to hold the event, Tight Crew owner Keith Woods defended the party, saying all necessary steps were taken to ensure it was safe. Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon, he said, eight private security guards started admitting guests, first searching them and their possessions for drugs or contraband. Woods disavowed the illegal activity, but said anytime large crowds gather, trouble is bound to occur.
"I'm not proud of that fact [that people were arrested]. We definitely try our hardest to make sure we search everybody that comes through the door," Woods said. "The people that attend our events are, for the most part, respectful."
Despite the serious legal charges resulting from the party, Woods described the event as orderly.
"[It was] not at all out of hand," he said. "If you consider the average bar, or average sporting event, or anything like that, what you are going to get is the same type of atmosphere. You are still going to have people that are under the influence of alcohol and drugs."
One of the incidents on Saturday involved a rave attendee who went into the upstairs portion of 12 Crane's Dark Horse Tavern and got into a fight with a separate group celebrating a school graduation, according to Dingui.
"One of the ravers decided to crash their party," he said.
That the fight happened could be due to miscommunication. Gabriel McCarthy said he never confirmed the date with Tight Crew.
"There was a miscommunication, probably, on my part," he said.
By the time he realized the mistake, he said, Tight Crew had already advertised the event for Saturday.
Gabriel McCarthy's director of operations, Alex Wheaton, said he had tried to reschedule the graduation party for another day or venue, but the group insisted on hosting the rave at 12 Crane
"They liked the facility," Wheaton said.
At one point, Wheaton said, he had even booked a reservation for Tight Crew at the Publick House in Sturbridge, which the organization declined.
Both Wheaton and Gabriel McCarthy defended the decision to let Tight Crew rent the venue, which was scheduled to be closed for unrelated reasons until Tuesday, July 13.
"Because I thought that this would have been a very positive thing for the town," Gabriel McCarthy said of why he allowed the party to proceed. "Outside of undress, I didn't see a lot going on."
Wheaton insisted the company did what it was supposed to by having employees and volunteers on hand to work the event.
"Everyone did their job well," he said. "[The legal charges] have no reflection on this facility."
In addition, Gabe McCarthy said that as a business geared toward hosting artistic events for the community, he wanted to offer up another type of music that what has not traditionally been performed there — techno.
He declined to comment on how a license suspension would hurt his business.
The town, Tight Crew and 12 Crane officials are at odds over the events over the past two months leading up to party.
Charette has said he met with Gabe McCarthy two months ago when the party was first proposed, but after researching raves, objected to it being held. After discussing the matter with McCarthy, Charette said, he was led to believe the event would never be held, but about a week ago received a call from John McCarthy saying the party would indeed proceed, but plans had been "adjusted" and that it would end by 1 a.m., instead of the originally proposed time of 6 a.m. Woods confirmed Charette's initial concerns, but said he did not know why the chief feels slighted now.
"He objected at first for other reasons. I walked out of there thinking it was perfectly fine," Woods said.
Gabriel McCarthy also said Charette told him it was OK to hold the event, as long as it followed the rules.
Charette has said he was told by an organizer, whom he did not name, that only 100 people would be attending. Wheaton, who said he was the individual who called Charette, said he never referenced a specific number of people.
Overall attendance is also causing controversy. Around 400 people went to the rave, more than the 100 people who, according to Woods, paid $25 for advance tickets. Tickets were available at the door.
"Before the event, we had only sold 100 tickets," Woods said. "There is really no way of telling how many people will come through the door."
Lavoie said he did not believe the building was past its maximum capacity, but acknowledged it is hard to determine the limit, since the building is sectioned off into separate businesses. He also said Fire Chief Richard Ciesla was at the event with another firefighter, to make sure all safety precautions were being met. Lavoie said the pair ensured the fire lanes for any emergency responders were clear as well as exits.
"Through the previous measures we took, nothing happened on our end," Lavoie said.
While raves are not common in Southbridge, two attendees interviewed yesterday said the idea of a good time at a friendly social gathering drew them to drive hundreds of miles to the area.
Laura Cannarella, 19, said she started attending Tight Crew's parties a year ago, got hooked and kept attending.
"Everybody is really non judgmental accepting and friendly," said the Central Connecticut State University junior.
Tansley spoke similarly.
"I have been to four or five of Tight Crew's previous parties. I just love doing it," he said. "I just kept going to them and meeting more people. I just really like the social scene and the music."
Acknowledging the negative reputation raves have of illegal activities, Woods sought to portray the party a different way.
"What we do is no different that any other concert promoter in the country. Our events are safer than most concerts," Woods said. "We try really hard to try to erase this negative connotation."
Ryan Grannan-Doll can be reached by phone at (508) 909-4050, or by e-mail