Does Boston Have a Grudge Against Fun?


Illustration by John Ueland

Reading the Herald this spring, you’d think the city was one bonnet away from a Puritan-like takedown of dancing. The paper ran five separate stories in March and May reporting that unwitting Boston nightclubs were getting busted for allowing people to boogie.

According to the tabloid, the House of Blues was cited when revelers at a February 21 Flogging Molly concert risked injury by moshing (a punk dance heavy on shoving and flying elbows). Following a hearing on the incident, the paper reported, the club was ordered to put up illuminated signs that read, “No Moshing.” Another story said that the Cure Lounge in the Theater District had been issued similar citations.

Outrage followed, including calls to arms against Mayor Menino by members of the city’s youth culture. A furious oldster even penned a letter to the editor waxing nostalgic about the time regulators tried to outlaw stage-diving at the now-closed Channel…and a riot ensued. Then anger turned to paranoia, with rumors of a secret anti-dance police detail. Was this all-out war?

House of Blues operating partner Declan Mehigan says the city’s unbelievably draconian anti-moshing stance was, in fact, not believable. Police did issue a citation—but not for reckless dancing—and the club volunteered to put up more signs, just in case. Those signs read, “CAUTION! Moshing, crowd surfing, head walking and stage diving leads to injury to yourself and other patrons. For your safety and of those around you, please DO NOT engage in these activities.” No big deal, really—similar warnings have hung in the hall’s entrance since it opened in 2009.

At City Hall, Patricia Malone, director of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, says gyrating isn’t the issue—it’s rule-breaking. “I’m a regulator,” she says. “If you’re not in compliance, then you may be written up.”

Though Cure Lounge owner Felix Paige says he thought he had a dancing license “just like everyone else,” Malone says the club didn’t apply for one until its third citation. (Boston’s entertainment-license application asks club owners to check a box if they want dancing in their venue. No checked box, no dancing.)

As for the House of Blues incident, Flogging Molly returned there for a show in late June. Mehigan says the crowd moshed while police stood by, just like the last time. No citations were issued. Maybe the moshing wasn’t as raucous. Or maybe the cops left their bonnets back at the station.

— David Riedel