BOSTON – Drunken sailors, beware. You’ll find stricter restrictions on public drinking and beach parties on the Massachusetts resort island of Nantucket this year.

The crackdown comes after complaints about last summer’s Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends bringing loud, inebriated visitors.

The Memorial Day weekend kicked off with the 39th running of the Figawi, a two-leg race from Hyannis on Saturday and back on Monday, 26 miles each way. The race for 220 boats was a favorite of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died in August. Last year’s event generated so much public drinking that residents said this weekend they wouldn’t allow their youngsters to follow the custom of wearing their Little League uniforms downtown and soliciting donations, said a selectman.

“It’s not that the people who come to Nantucket are bad people,” said Michael Kopko, one of the town’s five selectmen. “Too many of them are just trashed. They are publicly intoxicated, urinating in bushes and vomiting downtown.”

At a post-race party Saturday, Figawi participants gather near the downtown harbor in a large tent where alcohol is served and live music is played. The 800 to 900 people admitted are usually matched by crowds of drunken hangers-on who roam the cobblestone streets, said Patricia Pierce, who owns Pierce Galleries on South Water Street.

Three years ago, a man entered her shop and demanded that she let him use the bathroom or he would go on the carpeting. She vowed never again to stay open on a race night and risk having drunken people come in.

“You don’t want them poking a hole through a million-dollar painting,” Pierce said.

Nantucket, where the average selling price of a single-family home through April was $1.98 million, is sliding from a reputation for the casual elegance of lawn parties and cocktail soirees toward a more brutish, frat-party atmosphere, Pierce said.

“We can’t tolerate that kind of behavior,” Kopko said. “If it’s illegal, we have to arrest people. If it’s ugly, we have to peer-pressure people.”

Dozens of business leaders, such as Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and Charles Geschke, co-chairman of Adobe Systems, own homes on the island 90 miles south of Boston.

Other property owners include Jack Welch, former chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric; New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick; and David Rubenstein, managing director and co-founder of the Carlyle Group, according to Nantucket town records.

Nantucket police will step up enforcement of public-drinking laws, Chief Bill Pittman told selectmen earlier this month. He said they also will more closely monitor drinking by minors, including patrols of the harbor, where youngsters use their parents’ boats to party.

At a Fourth of July bash last summer on Nobadeer Beach, some of the 2,500 partiers urinated on private property and left mounds of trash, said Lt. Jerry Adams, a police spokesman.

The town’s beach advisory committee has enacted new rules restricting parking near the beach, banning glass bottles and increasing fees for vehicles going on the beach.

Not everyone thinks stricter rules are necessary.

“The big parties, the drinking, none of this is new,” said Illya Kagan, 40, an artist who paints downtown street scenes and remembers big beach parties decades ago. “I just don’t see a problem.”

Kopko, who runs a guesthouse with his wife, said the best solution is for visitors to exercise moderation.

“Come to Nantucket and enjoy the living heck out of it,” he said. “But don’t throw up on the front stoop of the art gallery.”


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