The tricky life of being a live-in hostel manager: Hostel Parties Gone Wrong
December 14, 2012

*Note: Part 1 in a series

The week after I turned 21, I was put in charge of a brand-new hostel. I had no experience and no clue what I was doing. These are stories and advice I give you from my tenure. I saw it all.

Fireworks tossed off the roof, ghost chili dares, police inevitably called: hostel parties gone wrong. The hostel guests want a tour of all the strip clubs in town. (Do you acquiesce?) How do you deal with a character called Mr. Soft Hands? (And other scary people.) I’ll discuss all those tricky situations here.

Hostel parties gone wrong

The long-term guests and I threw raging parties at the hostel every couple of months. This party throwing tradition was started by the owner. One day he decided to have a hostel decorating party. He brought the kegs, snacks, and paint. Friends and random people from the street came in, got drunk, and painted whatever they wished on our main, and entirely blank, wall. It was brilliant. Although we ended up with some questionable finger-painting creations, it was a wonderful way to connect with the local community and bring personality to our space. Guests would compliment the wall, saying how cool it was. Many times these party artists would come in, bring their friends, and show off their mark at our hostel.

That is the right way to throw a hostel party. Now here are the wrong ways.

1. Don’t serve too much alcohol

We decided to go all out for this party. We spent over $100 in alcohol to create the ultimate Jungle Juice. Jungle Juice for the uninitiated is a large amount of booze masked by larger amounts of fruit juice and whole fruit pieces. Confident that we would have a lot of guests attending, we made it in an 11-gallon barrel. Then we added dry ice for effect. It was outstanding. Just in case we thought that wasn’t enough spirits, we created hot cider mixed with 140 proof rum and cinnamon schnapps. Homemade snacks were eaten, friendships were being born, and amazingly the Jungle Juice and cider both ran dry.

Do you know why it’s called Jungle Juice? It sends the drinker into a state of animal behavior. Before I knew it, half the party was hanging on the roof and then someone threw fireworks to scare unsuspecting people below and then we all had to run for our lives. Facepalm.

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Over the summer, we had a number of successful, smaller parties that we dubbed “Fajita & Margarita Nights.” Lovingly, we churned out unlimited margaritas (hand-squeezed lime juice and all) and made fajitas from scratch. Kept it classy. This particular party was a mix of short-term and long-term guests and a few friends. We held ghost chili pepper chicken eating dares that left people laughing and writhing in pain. As always, someone says the magic, fateful words, “Why don’t we go on the roof?” And as always, I acquiesce, ignoring the danger signs in my head. We’re hanging on the roof and we’ve socializing, having split into smaller groups of conversation. A partygoer sheepishly comes up to me and says calmly,

“Soooo… I think we need to go.”
“What’s up?”
“I… just peed off the side of the roof and onto a cop car.”

And in similar fashion to last time, we all run for our lives… and into the elevator. To give some context, the hostel is located on the bottom floor of an apartment building in the middle of downtown. We have a staircase that would have led us safely from the roof right back into our hostel. But we decided to take the more leisurely approach. What could go wrong, right?

As the elevator doors parted open, no less than four police officers are standing there awaiting our arrival.

“I take it you’re the revelers on the roof.”

Busted. Two officers checked our IDs and questioned us while the other two went upstairs to survey the roof. Luckily, we got off with a stern warning. There was a light-hearted moment as the other two officers came down, coughing.

“Did someone release pepper spray in the air?”

Quickly realizing what they were affected by, I cheerfully reply,

“Oh no, we had just gotten done eating ghost chili peppers. They’re some of the hottest peppers in the world.” Apparently our breath was dangerous.

“You guys are crazy.” And then they laughed. Relieved, we laughed as well as they headed out the door. Crisis averted.

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I had put in my two weeks’ notice and it was our last hurrah. It had to be epic. Deciding on a space theme, we had decorated the hostel with florescent colors, black lights, and hung panda plushies from the ceiling. Glowsticks and glow-in-the-dark bouncy balls were given out as souvenirs. We had three DJs lined up to spin electronic music. Everything was set and it looked pretty badass, if I say so myself. Apparently the early arrivers agreed. Word got around and soon our “22 confirmed guests” on Facebook turned into 60 inside our doors. The occupancy cap was 49 for the entire hostel… and we only had the common space open. People were yelling conversations loudly, dancing wildly to the music, and generally having a good time. Unfortunately, that did not include the silent hostel guests who couldn’t get sleep hiding out in their rooms. I had warned them about the party in advance, but had stated it would be a “small affair” and “would end around 1am.” With triple the intended guests, it got out of hand. Finally managing to quell the party around 2:30am, I wearily went to bed. I awoke to a disastrous mess of the hostel (the sink in the women’s bathroom had been lowered by a foot), annoyed guests looking for a refund due to their inability to sleep, and an angry email from the hostel owner. Yikes.

Good times, but lessons learned.