Last call? - Page 4

City commission pushes booze ban at North Beach festivals, raising concerns about an antifun crackdown at the start of the street fair season
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Though Kowal remains optimistic, he's rallying as much support as possible, even turning the May 3 meeting into an event itself on his Web site (www.sunsettickets.com). His partners, Monroe and Miles, were concerned enough to swing by City Hall to see Peskin, who agreed to testify and help the Jazz Festival retain the right to sell booze.

"The first person to write a check to start this festival was Mayor Willie Brown," Kowal said. "Peskin has always been a big supporter of the festival, which is why we think it will all work out."

The festival is a labor of love for the three organizers, who barely break even to put the event on; after expenses are covered, any additional profit from the sale of alcohol is donated to Conservation Value, a nonprofit organization that aids consumers in making smart purchases.

"We were the first fair to use Washington Square Park," Monroe, the founding father of the jazz festival, said. "We're standing up for the right to access the park. It's not about 'he said, she said' or who did what to whom. It's about hearing free live music."

So now comes the moment when we find out whether this is about alcohol, parks, or simply politics, and whether future street fairs could feel the pinch of renewed temperance. If the jazz festival gets to sell booze, Garland’s supporters argue, that will represent a bias against the North Beach Festival.

The commission will hear Garland’s appeal at the end of May, just two weeks before the festival begins. With contracts already signed and schedules set, the stakes are high. Owing to lack of funds, Garland has already canceled the poetry, street chalk art, and family circus components of the fair. She did receive an e-mail from Levitan promising a personal donation to put toward the street chalk art competition. Even so, she's preparing for a funeral.

And if alcohol is prohibited at the jazz festival, it could send out a ripple of concern among street fair promoters and lovers around the city. To be a part of the decision, stop by the meeting and have a say. SFBG

PS This weekend's How Weird Street Faire, on May 7, centered at Howard and 12th Streets, will have beer gardens in addition to seven stages of music and performances. But organizers warn that it could be the last festival because the SFPD is now demanding $14,000, a 275 percent increase from the police fees organizers paid last year.

operations committee hearing

May 3, 2 p.m.

City Hall, Room 416

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, SF

(415) 831-2750

www.sfgov.org