Alcohol limits for street fairs are likely 

A compromise last year that allowed alcohol to be sold and consumed at limited locations around the North Beach Festival will likely be in effectagain this year, organizers say.

Beginning in 2005, the Recreation and Park Department started getting complaints from residents saying the annual two-day street festival was not welcoming enough to families and was marred by obnoxious behavior due to alcohol consumption, according to spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis.

In response, the department last May tried to ban alcohol at both the North Beach Festival and the North Beach Jazz Festival, leading to jazz festival organizers threatening to back out. Mayor Gavin Newsom intervened and reached a compromise in June that allowed alcoholic beverages to be purchased at a designated area adjacent to Washington Square Park and allowed them to be consumed in one designated area in the park.

Both festivals went on as scheduled, but the North Beach Festival in particular suffered because of the compromise, according to festival producer and North Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marsha Garland. The chamber sponsors the festival.

"[The chamber] is in debt. We lost one of our points of sale [and] spent extra money on security, police and advertising to make up for bad press," Garland said.

More importantly, Garland said, the chamber was unable to make its usual charitable donation — usually around $17,000 — because of the loss it suffered last year. The festival draws around 80,000 people annually.

Robert Kowal, marketing director for the North Beach Jazz Festival, which draws about 7,000 people annually, said his event broke even as it does every year and was a success.

"We didn’t think we needed to change anything but we’re good neighbors and now we found out what it took to make everyone happy," Kowal said.

Capt. James Dudley said overall problems because of drinking at the festival went down last year, although there were still about 20 citations given after the festival ended for public intoxication.

The Recreation and Park Department is set to propose the same plan again this year at its meeting this afternoon, according to Dennis. The North Beach Festival, which will be in its 53rd year June 16 to 17, is a celebration of North Beach culture and history. The North Beach Jazz Festival will celebrate its 13th year from July 25 to 29.

eeconomides@examiner.com

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