Mixed reaction to S.F. Halloween shutdown call

Only 15 of 130 Castro businesses possessing alcohol permits have agreed to close their doors early on Halloween as city officials attempt to quash the decades-old neighborhood dance party that draws more than 100,000 revelers and has been plagued recently with violence.

At least 130 Castro businesses — restaurants, stores, clubs and bars — received letters from The City asking that they shut down as early as 6 p.m. on Halloween in an attempt to limit crowds and divert revelers elsewhere.

Over the years, the celebration has grown into a massive event drawing thousands from around the Bay Area that many neighborhood residents say has turned from playful to unruly. Last year, despite the presence of more than 500 public safety officers, a gunman opened fire and wounded nine people, according to authorities. In 2002, a person with a chain saw ran amok and four people were stabbed.

“The level of violence in the Castro is unacceptable and the residents of the Castro do not want this mayhem on their doorsteps again,” Mayor’s Office spokesman Nate Ballard said.

Thursday, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Police Chief Heather Fong and Castro Supervisor Bevan Dufty met with neighborhood merchants to discuss the closures and were met with a “mixed bag” of reaction, according to Dufty.

“Some questioned what exactly the plan is and how we are going to deal with [crowds] logistically,” Dufty said. “There was not a consensus [about closing early], but we are trying to do what is best for the overall neighborhood.”

Dufty said the financial hit some businesses will experience by closing earlier will be offset by a promotional campaign the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Business Bureau will launch to drive San Franciscans to the Castro throughout October.

City officials had planned to provide an alternative to the Castro party at a parking lot behind AT&T Park, but negotiations with the promoter fell apart last week.

“Fifteen businesses is a good start,” Ballard said. “We are optimistic that the merchants in the Castro will warm up to the idea of closing early. We believe the businesses of the Castro will respect the wishes of their neighbors and shut down to avoid the violence.”

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