Dead town - Page 2

San Francisco hosts a Halloween celebration suitable for suburban San Diego
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Chris Daly.

"Transit riders have been unfairly singled out in the city's War on Halloween, and BART's proposed closure is an insult to the community [that]
relies on 16th Street Mission Station," the two wrote in an Oct. 30 letter condemning the move. "People and businesses that depend on BART and Muni will have their mobility compromised by this campaign to suppress the Halloween celebration in the Castro."

Alix Rosenthal, who lost a board challenge to Castro district Sup. Bevan Dufty in 2006, was appalled by how little the public knew about the Halloween plans in advance. Rosenthal helped found Citizens for Halloween, a group that argued revelers would show up despite city hall's insistence that the event be cancelled this year.

"I think it was really great they were able to keep the Castro safe," Rosenthal said. "But at what cost? The cost of fun. The cost of Halloween. The cost of transit riders. The cost of merchants."

Several businesses — including sex shops, bars, and restaurants — relented to pressure from the city and closed early. Officers clad in riot helmets and zip cuffs filled the entryways, seeming to overshadow civilians and bored-looking TV reporters.

The Edge bar at 4149 18th St., Osaki Sushi around the corner, the Posh Bagel, Chinese Dim Sum, the Sausage Factory, and even Twin Peaks, a bar that stands at the northeast entryway of the Castro and normally serves as a sort of de facto welcoming committee for the neighborhood, were shuttered. The restaurant A Bon Port at 476 Castro stood dark with a chalkboard sign in the window: "Out cruising," it read hopefully.

San Francisco Badlands, one of many Castro bars owned by area entrepreneur Les Natali, closed at 10 p.m., and two perturbed-looking private security guards in orange vests informed loiterers that they weren't allowed in any longer. Harvey's (on the southwest corner of 18th and Castro streets) remained open, but there were few people inside.

THE EAST BAY CROWD

The folks who braved the police and the lack of transit tried to liven things up. Just south of the Castro Muni station, two friends protested with signs reading, "Don't tell us what to do — we'll come if we want to." One of them, Erik Proctor, splits his time between the East Bay and San Francisco and said residents who move to the neighborhood should expect rambunctious annual celebrations.

"Partly why I'm out here is because last year they said people from the East Bay were the problem," Proctor said. "I represent the East Bay also. I come over here to have a good time. I don't come over here to cause problems."

With the crowd under control, the cops had plenty of time to chat about their paychecks. "Are you on OT?" one officer standing south of 18th Street casually asked another.

"I think so," he responded.

"Well, that's good."

A handful of costumed celebrants graced filled the sidewalks, but there was still plenty of breathing room, and traffic moved swiftly and easily along Castro Street, which was lined with steel barricades. One step into the street would elicit a hand on the chest and a hasty warning from a police officer: "Back on the sidewalk."

A handful of men went near-commando in little more than elastic thongs, but few people were shocked, and most of the costumes were far from scandalous. One woman dressed as a bag of groceries from Trader Joe's.

Among the people most directly impacted were foreign tourists — the very folks the city spends money to attract every year. Activists walking through the Castro and interviewing people found visitors from 19 countries who had come to see the legendary celebration. Most walked away disappointed; they won't be back next year.

THE BACKLASH

At least one business that stayed open felt a bit of official pressure.

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