Cocktail Crackdown France Takes Aim at Giant Facebook-Planned Drink-ups

Following the death of a 21-year-old reveller at a mass, open air party organized via Facebook last week in Nantes, French officials are exploring ways to put an end to the "cocktail parties." Most of the parties planned for the weekend fizzled out.

AFP

It was to have been a weekend of excess. In recent weeks, a number of cities in France have played unwilling host to oversized, outdoor "cocktail parties" organized via Facebook. In March, 4,000 people toasted each other in Rennes. In April, it was Brest's turn, where 7,000 revellers gathered for a massive drink up. Last week, 10,000 partygoers came together in Montpellier for a bit of imbibing.

This weekend, the towns of Troyes, Annecy, Chambéry and Limoges were set to host enormous drink ups -- known as "apéro géants" -- of their own.

But they largely fizzled out. Last Thursday night in Nantes, a massive gathering of 10,000 drinkers ended with the death of a 21-year-old party-goer who fell from a bridge. As a result, officials in municipalities targeted by Facebook fetes posted calls for responsibility on the Internet, boosted security and urged that the events be cancelled.

Just 500 people joined the party in Le Mans on Saturday, along with 200 security personnel. Originally, organizers had anticipated between 3,000 and 5,000 attendees.

Such Facebook-organized gatherings began earlier this year and initially attracted just a few hundred people, at most. Recently, though, the parties have been growing, as have the problems associated with them. Following the Nantes event last week, 57 people had to be hospitalized for overindulgence and a further 41 were arrested. Municipalities were left to clean up the rubbish left behind.

Appealing to Internautes

Complicating the jobs of officials seeking to regulate the enormous parties is the fact that the Facebook cocktail-party calls are often made anonymously. In many cases, police can do little more than appeal to "internautes" -- as Web users are known in French -- to behave responsibly and not attend such mass drink-ups.

Following Thursday's death, the mayor of Nantes, Jean-Marc Ayrault, asked the national government to take action against the parties. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux called for an emergency meeting of police officials and mayors to take place in coming days. While Paris does not intend to ban such parties, the government is looking for ways to punish organizers -- if they can be identified -- for holding the mass events without registering them with the police beforehand.

In the meantime, officials in Paris are bracing for an "apéro géant" set to take place on Sunday at the Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Police have posted a Facebook note of their own in an attempt to warn off potential participants. "Without denying the festive and convivial motive," the note reads, before changing tone "consuming alcohol is strictly forbidden on the Champ de Mars."

With no permit for the party having been granted, organizers face six months in prison and a fine of up to €7,500 ($9,500).

cgh -- with wire reports

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