It’s going to be B.Y.O.B. at the Haight Ashbury Street Fair this year — the 30th anniversary of the event.
Instead of operating enclosed beer gardens, organizers of the annual event decided Thursday to forgo the liquor license and host a dry celebration after community members raised concerns about high levels of public drunkenness. Organizers also said they could not shoulder the expenses associated with the insurance, security and maintenance needed to run the gardens.
Other street fairs have also experienced increased pressure in the last year to decrease alcohol consumption and regulate unruly crowds. Both the North Beach Festival and North Beach Jazz Festival were almost canceled last year when The City tried to ban alcohol at the events.
The Haight Ashbury Street Fair, held across six blocks from Stanyan Street to Masonic Avenue, is scheduled for June 10. The daylong event, which attracts 70,000 people each year, was in jeopardy after community members complained about drunken fairgoers who have urinated in public, left trash in the street and disturbed local businesses in the past.
Two weeks ago, the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation threatened to deny fair organizers a street-closure permit for the event this year because of community members’ complaints.
“Tens of thousands of people come in, and they have a trashing and call it a fair,” said Arthur Evans, a member of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, which opposed the event.
Attempting to compromise, ISCOTT gave fair organizers two weeks to develop a plan that included fenced-in beer gardens to contain people drinking alcohol. Fairgoers would not be allowed to consume alcoholic beverages anywhere else at the event.
It was, however, all or nothing for Robert Leon, the fair’s executive director.
At an ISCOTT hearing Thursday, where organizers were to present their beer-garden plan, Leon announced that there would be no alcohol at the fair at all.
“We have always prided ourselves in producing a street fair that celebrates the free spirit of the community,” Leon said. “Restricting free movement … and compromising the personal decisions of our attendees are contrary to the nature of this community celebration.”
Leon said the fair could not financially support the proposed beer gardens, which organizers estimated at $7,000 each.