Ballards: A Public Health Crisis on a Tiny Island

Eli Holmes
4 min readAug 9, 2022

I write this fully acknowledging that there will be retaliation and consequences for my honesty. That will happen and I want to ensure that I acknowledge the consequences of being honest about a place I call home. I’m writing this anyways.

Well, let’s step back: Ballards is not home or Block Island. And Block Island certainly isn’t Ballards. While the average person on Block Island enjoys lavender lattes and hiking for glass orbs, the average person going to Ballards enjoys ten foot daiquiris and defecating in a public parking lot.

I know people who go to Ballards and don’t cause a public health crisis, or behave in ways that honestly the rest of the island just shakes their heads at. But that said, the business cultivates a certain air of laxidazical nonsense.

Last nights events were no different, and many were not surprised. To have police boarding a moving ferry filled with Ballards patrons is kind of par for the course for Ballards. Let’s be real — they’re the only bar on the island that has ever had to hire their own EMS service for an event, let alone every weekend

But let’s be honest. There is no reason that a business should cultivate an event that ends the way last nights events did. Even more so, on an island 13 miles out to sea let’s just not bring 4000+ people out, get them really drunk, and release them on the island like a plague of zombies.

Any other business owner or management team would have taken responsibility for the numbers, ensured that there was proper security, EMS, ferry trips, and more for the community to not be impacted by their decision to …make money. Instead so many departments, and personnel wasted their resources navigating the consequences of a money making event. And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Ballards put dollars first, over public health, wellness, and safety.

There have been so many hurricanes where locals sit in the taxi stand waiting and hoping Ballards just gets mother natured off the island — never to be dealt with again. Ballards doesn’t bring in clientele that shops at local businesses or respects the local island life. Instead, locals have seen and dealt with patrons coming into their businesses from Ballards and stealing, puking, screaming at them, trying to get workers drunk, defecating in parking lots, and more. Shops have had to close their doors and lock up at times because of the nuisance that’s created.

And somehow, despite underage drinking, assaults, and just general nonsensical behavior, Ballards has rarely faced any sort of accountability.

I hope last night is that final straw. I hope that this is the moment where we can come together to find solutions, to move forward, to encourage a business to prevent public health crisis’s versus create them.

But I also hope that folks seeing the TikTok’s and the articles recognize and know that that is a very small percentage of Block Island. That Ballards isn’t Block Island and Block Island isn’t Ballards. There is so much more to this island than that little strip that most of us ignore and black out of our existences.

my hopes moving forward are as follows:

  • Special events permits are changed to needed for events with 500 or more guests, and require ticketing, chartering a ferry to ensure unobtrusive ferry passage, 1:100 and 1:200 ratios for security personnel and EMS respectively (if alcohol is involved 1:75, 1:150)
  • Ballards be fined to the tune of the resources cumulatively spent between Coast guard, NSPD, BIVFD and BIVFDRS, RISP, and all other agencies who were involved Monday night — and those amounts go directly to those agencies — as well as a fine equal to the same amount evenly split as a donation to BIS, BIMI, Block Island Historical Society, the Mary D Fund, Block Island Chamber and Visitor Center, Block Island Health Center, and the Block Island Early Learning Center (and maybe a few other on island organizations)
  • Ballards be denied any special events permits until 2024
  • A two week suspension of their liquor license

Block Island is a beautiful oasis where you can reconnect with nature, with your loved ones. You gain time to do hobbies, to explore, and adventure in living here and visiting here. The creative community and culture here runs deep, and endlessly. I can’t count the amount of creative people I know because so many who live here are creative in their own way.

This island is beautiful, talented, iconic, and just deeply wonderful. We deserve to see that in the news — to see the land we preserve and conserve, to see the art, to see the community and culture, to see the food. We deserve to see the best parts of this island in the news — the parts that the local community and the island that people work so hard for.

Not Ballards and it’s nonsense.