HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (STMW) — DJ and party promoter Ryan Levin threw the party of a lifetime Saturday night in Highland Park.
But the party got too big. Six teens were found to have consumed alcohol, and police were forced to shut it down early.
Nearly 1,000 North Shore teens, ranging from 14 to 18 years old, were reported to have attended, packing Highland Park’s Warehouse Gym and Boxing Club from wall-to-wall. About 800 teens were inside and another 150 were waiting in line outside, at 1660 Old Skokie Valley Road.
Levin, a 26-year-old local disc-jockey who graduated from Glenbrook South High School, provided the sound, lights and security after organizing the event with two Highland Park teens and their parents. Levin’s entertainment company, Mobile Teen Dance Club, charged $20 at the door and only water was sold inside.
He explained that the weekend teen parties began last year after a Wilmette teen approached him at an eighth-grade graduation party he was working at the Glencoe Beach. The idea turned into two backyard parties last year in Wilmette, one on Halloween, in which the host teen charged classmates to attend.
The concept expanded this year when Levin organized teen events at Stash’s Restaurant in downtown Highland Park. About 225 teens showed up on Jan. 21, Levin said, and a capacity crowd nearing 350 attended the most recent Stash’s party. Needing more space, Levin held his first party at the Warehouse Gym on April 26.
Word of the parties quickly began circulating on Facebook, and the two Highland Park teens and one from Wilmette began promoting them at school, setting the stage for Saturday night’s unpredictable turnout.
“Freshmen have nothing to do on weekends,” Levin said. “They are good kids that aren’t drinking or doing drugs, so I thought why not throw parties where they can come. Only (six) kids were found to be bad apples. The whole idea behind it is to promote a fun, safe party, without the use of alcohol or drugs.
“This isn’t Charlie Sheen’s type of party,” he continued. “It’s a Chuck E. Cheese’s type of party. It’s a kids party, not a night club.”
Levin hires security, encourages adult supervision, and does not allow attendees to bring bags or purses into the dance area. Attendees were also not allowed to come back in if they leave.
“It just got kind of out of hand,” Levin said. “We were prepared for 600 to 800 kids, not over 1,000.”
Police were ultimately notified of the party at 8:30 p.m. Saturday by a parent concerned about the size of the expanding party after dropping off a child, said David Schwarz, Highland Park’s deputy police chief.
When officers arrived, they found the place to be packed beyond a safe capacity and a handful of teens allegedly under the influence of alcohol. Six teens were taken into custody and released to their parents. Their punishments will be adjudicated through the Police Department’s juvenile officer, Schwarz said, and no arrests or citations were made.
It took nearly an hour to clear the place out.
“It was dangerous,” Schwarz said of the crowds. “There were kids and youth throughout the building to such an extent that the officers found it difficult to move through the crowd to locate the adults who were on the scene and to have the DJ turn the music down. There were a number of youth outside the building, too, waiting to get in. They weren’t unruly but it was still a significant number of people and near the road enough that there was a concern there, too.
“That is why we felt it was necessary to shut the establishment down,” Schwarz continued. “Due to the overcrowding, and it turned out there were six underage youth that displayed signs of intoxication from alcohol. There was no indication that it was sold or served there, but they were under the influence nonetheless, so there were some safety concerns there, too.”
The city’s Fire and Community Development departments are investigating whether building codes or acceptable use restrictions were violated.
“We are reviewing the situation to see if there are violations or other things that they need to correct if the establishment can be utilized again in the future,” Schwarz said. “We hope to have that finalized and evaluated by the end of the week.”
Levin, still proud of the safe parties that his company has hosted, plans to throw another at the Warehouse Gym this weekend.
“The whole goal is to do this on a weekly basis to give the kids an outlet,” said Levin who has been disc jockeying since he was 15 years old. “There has to be a place for kids to go and have fun.
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