When a flash mob comes to town, who is supposed to fork out for the clean up? And in the days of ubiquitous social networking, who pays the bill if an intimate soiree gets hijacked by masses of party animals? Such are the new legal conundrums facing a small island community in Germany and one young man after his private beach party turned into a massive event attracting 5,000 revellers.
Christoph Stüber may face a huge clean-up bill after he made the mistake of using the Internet to try to get over being dumped. The 26-year-old had invited a dozen friends to the North Sea island of Sylt to help him drown his sorrows. However, the viral word soon got out and initially as many as 13,500 people said they were attending the party on an island with a population of just 21,000.
While only 5,000 actually turned up, the authorities made sure to invite themselves to prevent things from getting too out of hand. The party itself was hardly a great success, with many partygoers complaining of the lack of music and insufficient alcohol supplies. While 14 people were taken into custody, there were only 2 formal arrests and one police officer was slightly injured. The Red Cross, which had around 50 staff on duty at the event, treated around a dozen drunken young people.
A Deterrent Against Copy-Cats
Yet as the last party animals made their way home, Sylt was left littered with piles of trash, particularly empty beer bottles. The clean-up operation lasted until Tuesday and along with the damages inflicted, the costs of the party are estimated to be around €20,000.
Now the island is planning on making Stüber pay. "The deployment of the relevant institutions led to enormous costs," Sylt's Mayor Petra Reiber told reporters. "We are going to make Mr. Stüber responsible for this."
The island's Public Order Office wants to pursue the case as a deterrent against copy-cat parties. A spokesperson for the office told DDP that a legal basis was required to prevent these kinds of events from happening again.
Stüber, who is reported to have already hired a lawyer, says he can only "grin" at these threats. "It was not an official event and I was not the organizer," he told reporters.
However, the young man may not get off so easily. Jürgen Benand, head of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHAGO), says that Stüber "has a big problem." Speaking to the Web site of newspaper Die Welt, Benad says that if even if Stüber did not post the party on the Internet it would have been his responsibility if he had publicly announced the event and it was conceivable that a lot more than just a few friends were going to turn up. Benad, who is also a lawyer, says that once it was clear that there was an enormous response to the party, Stüber should have tried to cancel it, adding: "At the very least he should have registered it with the authorities."
In the aftermath of Saturday's merrymaking, Christoph Ahlhaus, interior minister for Hamburg, said he was looking at ways to prevent flash mob parties in the city. "It is inconceivable that thousands of people can spontaneously party and then afterwards the community has to clean up the trash and pay for the consequences," he told Bild newspaper on Tuesday. He argued that if there was no legal means of forcing people who organize such events to pay the costs, then there might have to be a change in the law.