For the first time in 35 years, the Union Street Fair will be free of alcohol at the request of the San Francisco Police Department, according to event organizers.
The two-day festival, which is scheduled for the first weekend in June, has long been billed as an arts and crafts event, but organizers say it has turned into a street party with excessive drinking and house parties along the six-block stretch.
“We want to show everybody it’s not really the fair that’s the problem. It’s the house parties,” said President of the Union Street Association Eleanor Carpenter. “The police have insisted the fair be alcohol free and this year we decided to do it.”
The changes mean no more beer gardens and no more rock and roll music, according to Carpenter. The organizers will beef up security of their own and have also asked for an increased police presence to hand out tickets to anyone with an open container.
San Francisco police referred all inquiries to the event organizers.
Larry Murray, vice president of the association, said the festival is also changing its focus to be more green and eco-friendly.
“It’ll have more of an instructive environment,” he said. “We still have vendors and artists selling art work, but we won’t have the wilder element; that’s gone.”
The Union Street Fair is one of many San Francisco events that have been targeted for their alcohol consumption.
Most recently, organizers of the 100th Zazzle Bay to Breakers tried to curb drunken revelers by confiscating open containers and removing unregistered floats from the course. Police said the increased enforcement was a success in spite of 17 arrests for public intoxication and one man falling 30 feet off a roof at a party along the race.
In 2007, organizers of the Haight Street Fair opted to go dry after The City’s Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation, which issues street closure permits, required the group to create a plan to restrict alcohol consumption to fenced-in beer gardens.
Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees ISCOTT, said the decision to go dry for Union Street Fair was made by the event’s sponsor, promoter, neighbors and the police. He said the ban is a one-year experiment and the results will be evaluated afterward.
Organizers of the North Beach Festival have also tried to contain drinking by limiting alcohol consumption and sales to fenced-in beer gardens along Green Street. The festival unsuccessfully tried banning alcohol in 2006.
Lesley Leonhardt, executive director of the association, said the Union Street Fair does not need alcohol in order to be successful.
“Everyone should still come down,” she said. “Just leave your beer at home.”