Underground pandemic parties: What they are and why they're happening

Posted at 11:01 AM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 11:01:01-04

NEW YORK CITY — Reports of underground pandemic parties are on the rise in the tri-state area, leaving many scratching their heads as to how and why.

Gothamist Arts & Culture editor Ben Yakas chatted with the PIX11 Morning News about why New Yorkers are attending underground parties during the coronavirus pandemic.

Part of the issue, according to Yakas, is that some promoters and venues decided it was time to let loose when the city entered Phase 2 at the end of June, ushering in the era of outdoor dining.

“And I think that, you know, the weather was getting nicer and there were months of people being cooped up and people really wanted to socialize, especially starting around the Fourth of July weekend,” Yakas said.

But unlike the crowds seen outside of bars and restaurants around the city, underground pandemic parties — often held on rooftops, at hotels or in other less obvious spaces — are thrown by organizers who want to attract more than the 50 people allowed by state guidelines for social gatherings.

“They are not trying to get people to wear masks. They’re not even doing the pretext of social distancing,” Yakas added.

As for the people who choose to attend the parties, Yakas said part of it comes from a sense of wanting to return to normal after months of upheaval.

“For a lot of people, they feel like they have done their part in staying home from March, April, May and now they just want to get out and they want to do something,” he said.

The very nature of an underground party also makes it harder to break up.

“Gov. Cuomo has really focused on these bars and restaurants because those are kind of the easy targets, and it’s a lot harder to catch some of these underground ones, which are happening behind closed doors and shady places in midtown, Bushwick, Long Island City and other parts of the city,” Yakas said. “So to catch them in the act it seems to be kind of difficult, but it’s also that the enforcement has been so focused on the outdoor restaurants and bars that it seems as though they’re just missing that one aspect of it.”