Organizers call off jazz festival after losing liquor license

The North Beach Jazz Festival will be canceled this year, organizers said Tuesday.

The decision to cancel the festival, which has drawn thousands of people from across the country for the last 13 years to Washington Square to hear prominent jazz musicians, came after the Recreation and Park Commission ruled to not issue organizers a license to sell alcohol in the park.

The decision will cost the festival between $20,000 and $40,000, a price tag too heavy to bear, according to organizers.

The commission also denied an appeal to overturn the prohibition of alcohol sales in the park for the North Beach Festival, which takes place six weeks before the jazz festival. They said both decisions were based on neighbors’ complaints and security concerns, as crime becomes a bigger problem in North Beach.

A divided neighborhood came out to speak their minds before the commission on Tuesday. An overflowing, and at times emotional, crowd strongly disagreed with the commission, as speaker after speaker voiced their support for both festivals — calling the decision a conspiracy by a few neighbors to not share the park.

“I suggest if people have a problem with the noise and fun and this amazing thing maybe they should not live in The City and move to the suburbs or Montana and watch squirrels or go sing kumbaya,” said John Miles, one of the producers of the jazz festival.

Marsha Garland, the executive director of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce and the main organizer behind the North Beach Festival, told the commission that the reports of drunken criminals at the event were overblown and only four people were arrested last year. Garland plans to sue to have the decision overturned.

Despite the prohibition, the North Beach Festival will continue because it is not as dependent on alcohol sales in the park. The festival will continue to have beer gardens on the adjacent streets.

Garland said alcohol sales in the park make up about 25 percent of her $260,000 budget for the event adding, “there is not a huge profit margin in events, so 25 percent is a huge hit.”

Jazz festival organizers said beer gardens, similar to the ones used at the North Beach Festival, would not work for their event, which has always been confined to the park.

Commissioner John Murray tried to work with the community and find alternative-funding sources for the jazz festival after organizers told him a prohibition would kill the event. In one day he secured a $5,000 grant but said ultimately the decision to prohibit alcohol sales in the park was based partly on a request from an already thin Police Department.

“What has changed over 14 years [of the event] is the police’s patrol of alcohol,” he told the audience, who wanted to know why the commission was making the decision now. “They want beer gardens and they want to ID in and out.”

sfarooq@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco lacks housing data that would let it track rental vacancies and prices. New legislation is seeking to change that.<ins> (Photo by Joel Angel Jurez/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Landlords blast proposal to require annual report on rentals as invasion of privacy

Housing inventory could give city better data on housing vacancies, affordability

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF moves into purple tier, triggering curfew and business shutdowns

San Francisco moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier Saturday, requiring The… Continue reading

University of San Francisco head coach Todd Golden coaches his team on defense during a 2019 gameat War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
Stunner in Bubbleville: USF upsets fourth-ranked Virginia

Less than 48 hours removed from a loss to a feeble UMass… Continue reading

Health care workers would be the first group in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
Hope on the way: Here’s what to know about California’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

The first batch of doses could hit the state as soon as early December

The Big Game was played Friday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. (Shutterstock)
Stanford blocks extra point to stun Cal, win 123rd Big Game 24-23

The 123rd edition of the Big Game featured a number of firsts.… Continue reading

Most Read