By Michael Kaplan
Barely reaching the parking lot of a small liquor store in the Valley, the light from a boulevard lamppost splashes a dim orange tint on Seanâs* â07 unshaven face. He has just spent $600 for 12 bottles of Smirnoff Vodka, 200 Natural Ice beers, and 10 bottles of champagne.
âWe give them our money and they load the alcohol in the back of the car,â Seanâs business partner Phil* â07 said. âNo questions asked. They donât even card us.â
The previous night Phil had sent out an invitation for a house party to 206 Harvard-Westlake students over Facebook, an internet social networking site.
Phil and Sean have a reputation for throwing house parties and have created an efficient system for their bashes complete with bartenders, bouncers and a cover charge.
So far this year they have thrown five parties, including a New Yearâs Eve extravaganza where they made a profit of more than $500.
âThere was nothing to do on the weekends, so we decided to take an initiative and provide the entertainment,â Phil said. âWe usually choose weekends where nothing is going on or special occasions like the first night of winter break.â
The process starts during the week before the party. If there is an idle Friday or Saturday night, Phil and Sean will start spreading the word that they are looking for a studentâs house where the parents will not be home.
âAt first I was skeptical of the idea, but they guaranteed me that the house wouldnât be left in ruins,â said a junior student who allowed a party at his house. âThey are really efficient and my house wasnât destroyed in the process.â
After finding a willing student, the pair will scope out the location, clear furniture and set up a table that will serve as a makeshift bar.
Typically they purchase $500 worth of alcohol from their favorite vendor, but the type and amount of alcohol purchased depends on the occasion.
âFor New Yearâs we spent $700 because we knew there was going to be a lot of people, and we wanted to get hard liquor and champagne,â Phil said.
The party usually gets started around 10 p.m., leaving Phil and Sean plenty of time to get bouncers, two of their senior cronies, in place. These bouncers make sure that people who enter the party are invitees and make sure that the partygoers pay a $10 cover charge if they plan on drinking and $5 if they donât.
âWe will pay the bouncers a percentage of what we make that night,â Sean said. âIt all depends, there isnât a set fee. If we can get cheap labor weâll use it.â
Â Phil and Sean like to restrict parties to Harvard-Westlake students but make exceptions for a few out-of-school friends.
The party throwers do not monitor the amount of alcohol a student drinks.
The senior boys have made it clear that the problem of students over-drinking is not something they are going to deal with.
âWe expect people to decide for themselves about how much they can drink,â Phil said. âWe arenât going to take responsibility for people getting sick because itâs their choice to drink that much. Sometimes, if Iâm bartending, Iâll cut people off if I think that they have had too much to drink.â
Some students are not as high on the idea and feel that it takes away from upperclassmen bonding experiences when sophomores are attending parties. There was a group on Facebook created entitled, âall those in favor of sophomores not being allowed to come to our parties,â where various seniors and juniors posted their sentiments.
âThere is really no age limit, you just have to decide if you can be yourself and not succumb to peer pressure when knowning these limits,â Sean said.
Students also feel as though Phil and Sean are taking advantage of the student body.
âIt shouldnât be about making money,â a junior boy said. âHalf the time these parties get shut down anyway, and they just keep everyoneâs money.â
âItâs okay for them to cover their costs, but their mentality of âCome on guys, letâs party but also generate some positive cash flow at the same timeâ is typical of Harvard-Westlake,â Tony Cuneo â08 said.
Neighbors calling the police because of noise cause some parties to be shut down.
âWhen we start to get complaints weâll usually be pretty reasonable and ask the partyâs supervisor to modify whatever is causing the disturbance whether it is amplified music or parked cars lining the street,â Lieutenant Gary Gilmond of the Beverly Hills Police Department said. Two police cars pull up to the house and break up the party by asking everyone to exit the house over a loudspeaker. Next, they enter the party looking for those responsible for the bash.
Â âIâve dealt with the police a couple of times,â Phil said. âThey expect this kind of thing. Usually itâs just a noise complaint and they ask everyone to leave, but not until late in the evening when the party has been going on for a while.â
When the complaints persist and nothing is done to fix the problem the police will shut down the party, Gilmond said.
âWorst case scenario, we will cite the homeowner or kids who are loitering on the street and we could possibly detain those who are caught underage drinking,â Gilmond said. âThis rarely happens. We will usually just ask everyone to leave. We are pretty reasonable.â
After about a half an hour, the guests have left and Phil and Sean are left amidst a mess of empty beer cans and cigarette butts.
âThe hardest part is definitely cleaning up in the morning,â Phil said. âWe sleep over at the personâs house and it usually takes a couple of hours to clean the entire house.â
Before leaving the house in the morning, Sean divides the remaining profits between Phil, the host and himself.
âI think the parties are good to have in general,â a sophomore girl said. âNo matter what, teenagers are going to drink and do stupid things so itâs better to have them do it in an environment where they trust and know that if anything goes wrong then someone will help them. They should at least be in a comfortable environment rather than being somewhere shady.â
Â âI believe that we are doing the student body a service,â Phil said. âInstead of sitting around doing nothing on the weekends, we give them the opportunity to party.â
*Names withheld upon request