Santacon, SF’s rowdy annual yuletide assembly in Union Square, is set to ring in the holiday season again this year, even though the city says that, once again, the organizers have not secured proper permits.
Scheduled for December 7, Santacon is an annual public party and bar crawl featuring thousands of people dressed like Santa Claus and related holiday figures.
Now in its 25th year, Santacon started in SF and has since spread to cities like New York, Hong Kong, and Hanoi.
In 2018, Santacon briefly appeared to be cancelled in SF when the city’s Recreation and Parks Department denied the annual event permits.
Although Santacon has neither received nor sought such permits in the past, organizer Tom DiBell despaired over the refusal, nearly calling the Santa bash off. In the end, the event went on anyway, but in a smaller form than originally planned.
Recreation and Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton tells Curbed SF that no one at Santacon asked for permits this year.
Neither DiBell nor international Santacon organizers returned repeated requests for comment on whether the Santa Saturnalia would happen.
But the Santacon SF Facebook page confirms the event is going forward. “I’m going to meet with the police and try to assuage their fears and let them know that we are far more responsible than in years past,” DiBell writes.
He also warns con goers that many bar owners in SF don’t want to be on the SantaCon route anymore thanks to antics from years past and encouraged Santas to only patronize establishments where they were welcome. After last year’s event, two 21-year-old women were arrested after vandalizing Shalimar restaurant during a drunken rage.
A long set of guidelines for the event includes the warning, “Don’t get drunk.” Santacon 2018 saw six arrests for public drunkenness, plus four for fighting.
Despite its rowdy reputation, event organizers like to frame the event as a charitable occasion where visitors make donations to the group’s toy drive.
Although the Santas again don’t have permits, authorities tell Curbed SF it will intervene only in the case of specific behaviors like amplified noise.