North Beach festivals still on
despite ban on alcohol sales
By Angela Hokanson, Bay City News Service
May 31, 2006
Both the North Beach Festival and the North Beach Jazz Festival
are still on for this summer, but the organizers of both events
are facing significant challenges after the San Francisco Recreation
and Park Commission voted Tuesday not to allow the sale of alcohol
in Washington Square Park.
The Commission voted 6-1 to approve the permit to hold the North
Beach Jazz Festival, but not to allow the sale of alcohol in the
park during the event, according to Rose Dennis, director of public
affairs at the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.
The organizers of the North Beach Jazz Festival are appealing
the Commission's decision, and if it isn't reversed, they will
most likely have to cancel the event, according to Robert Kowal,
one of the directors of the event.
"We're hoping that common sense will prevail" and that
the Commission will reverse its decision," Kowal said.
The ban on selling alcohol in the park would cost between $40,000
and $60,000 in revenue, Kowal said.
The alternative the Commission offered to jazz festival organizers
-- that alcohol be permitted on Union Street between Columbus
and Stockton streets, but not allowed in the park -- was not actually
a workable compromise, Kowal said.
Kowal expects the jazz festival's appeal to be on the Commission's
agenda for a June 15 meeting.
The North Beach Jazz Festival is scheduled to take place July
The Commission also voted 6-1 on Tuesday to deny an appeal by
the organizers of the North Beach Festival that would have reversed
the decision to ban the sale of alcohol at Washington Square Park
during the North Beach Festival, which will take place on June
17 and 18.
Commissioner Jim Lazarus cast the one dissenting vote in each
The North Beach Festival is still on, but the event will lose
an estimated $40,000 due to the ban on the sale of alcohol in
the park, according to Marsha Garland, the executive director
of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the June
Garland hopes to raise additional revenue for the festival, which
costs about $250,000 to put on, through sponsorships.
Alcohol sales generate the "break-even" money of the
event, and the festival will have a net monetary loss because
of the ban, Garland said.
Those opposed to the sale of alcohol in the park cite public
safety problems that could arise because of excessive drinking,
Ultimately, the decisive factor in banning the sale of alcohol
in the park was maintaining unfettered access to park for all
people, according to Dennis.
The organizers of both festivals were perplexed by the Commission's
"We've had alcohol in the park for 15 years. What changed?"
Kowal said the Commission's decision indicated either a "lack
of understanding of or a willful disdain for our festival."
Public safety issues have never been a problem at the jazz festival,
"We run a very controlled event," Garland said.
According to festival organizers, most San Franciscans want the
festival to go on with alcohol being sold in the park.
Around 275 letters by residents in favor of holding the jazz
festival with alcohol sales in the park were submitted to the
Commission during a 10-day period, according to Kowal.
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