A packed party with little social distancing at a mansion in New Jersey over the weekend is causing concerns for Gov. Phil Murphy as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, and with the infection rate slightly increasing in the Garden State.
Videos posted by party promoter and partygoers showed a massive pool party in upscale Alpine, Bergen County, on Saturday night. Hundreds of guests, most without face covering and some passing out drunk, spilled out into the street after police showed up to break up the crowd. One person was seen taken away in an ambulance — and Saturday's party wasn't even the first time a massive party was held at the residence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hours before the party, sprinter shuttle buses arrived at the mansion and people lined up to get inside.
"We paid to get in, period," one attendee said.
Alpine Mayor Paul Tomasko told NBC New York that what’s been happening at the private house is being looked at by local police, state officials, as well as the county prosecutor's office.
Investigators are reviewing videos from social media of the events—some posted by party promoters. A flyer advertised the party as "The Lavish Experience Pool Party." From an aerial view, you can see the cabanas offered for those willing to spend extra money. One woman and her group took a shuttle bus from Brooklyn to attend the party. She said they collectively spent almost $1,000, and added that social distancing rules were ignored.
"I don't know what kind of scheme, or what they was doing, what kind of scam it was, but I don't appreciate how I was treated, how my friends were treated, how packed it was," the woman said.
A man who identified himself as the host denied that it was a paid party. "This is absolutely out of hand. I agree with all of that," he said. "This is not how we do things. It got out of control."
However, this isn't the first promoted party at the luxurious home. Last month, an event called BikiniPalooza was held there. Neighbors say they've lived next to a party house all summer. This one asked us to conceal his identity.
"We've witnessed a night club being operated from the backyard of an Alpine house," one neighbor who asked to remain anonymous told NBC New York. "I've been to Vegas a number of times and this is like a pool party that they throw there."
Various agencies are now looking closely at the party promoters—one already advertising another party at the house this upcoming weekend.
The homeowner is listed as New Jersey personal injury lawyer Joseph LaBarbera. NBC New York reached him by phone and he said "no comment" before hanging up.
Addressing the investigation on Monday, Gov. Murphy said, "Based on the description, there was close congregation and not a lot of face covering, if any. If in fact people are busted and there was a promoted party, that's not gonna end well."
Murphy on Monday also announced he’s reducing the limit on indoor gatherings to 25% percent capacity, with a cap of 25 people down from 100. He said too many indoor house parties have led to trends creeping in the wrong direction. The rate of transmission, which indicates the number of people an infected person spreads the virus to, has climbed from 0.87 a month ago to 1.48 on Monday.