Beer yes, vending no in Washington Park during festival

North Beach Festival revelers will be able to drink in Washington Square this summer, but vendors will be ousted from the park in order to keep their booths from killing the grass.

Park neighbors have rallied against letting the festival — expected to draw 100,000 patrons this year — use the park, claiming patrons and booths trample Washington Square’s greenery.

San Francisco Recreation and Park commissioners voted 7-2 Thursday in favor of the plan to move booths onto North Beach streets and make the park a “beer garden.”

But neighbors say it won’t do enough.

“The point is, this shouldn’t be a huge commercial enterprise,” said Washington Park neighbor Lee Goodin, after Thursday’s vote. “It’s not about booths versus no booths — it’s about staying out of the park.”

The festival was originally held on city streets but migrated to the park in the late 1990s, drawing the ire of neighbors who see the park as the neighborhood’s backyard.

When neighbors nearly won an effort to ban in-park drinking at the festival two years ago, city leaders reached a compromise: erect diagonal barricades across the square and allow drinking only on one side, according to Marsha Garland, festival organizer and director of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce.

That arrangement made nobody happy, according to Denny Kern, operations manager for the Recreation and Park Department.

Commissioner Michael Sullivan suggested moving booths onto the asphalt after hearing comment from neighbors. “My real concern is with the turf — I’m not convinced that banning alcohol sales will protect the park,” Sullivan said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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