Dead town - Page 3

San Francisco hosts a Halloween celebration suitable for suburban San Diego
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Koch Salgut, who owns Ararat on 18th Street, didn't close early, even though he was repeatedly asked to do so.

"I kept it open because I was against" the shutdown, he told us later. "All the merchants rely on the business."

To his surprise, he got a visit that night from the San Francisco Fire Department. The inspectors told him he didn't have permits for the candles on his tables.

"This is the second business I've had. I never heard there was a regulation against candles," Salgut told us. "The Fire Department gave me a little hard time. It wasn't threatening, but it was an ugly situation."

Salgut has no doubt what was going on: "They were trying to give me a hard time because I was open, I didn't close."

Calls to the SFFD seeking comment were not returned by press time.

John Lewis, a bartender at Moby Dick on 18th Street, wasn't working Halloween night, but he lives in the neighborhood — and when we talked to him Nov. 1, he told us he wasn't at all happy about what went down. The city had promised to fix the problem, he told us — not shut down the entire event. He complained that local bars were asked to close early and then reminded that they could be cited for exceeding occupancy regulations, for public displays of drunkenness, and for open containers on the street. Halloween has traditionally been the one time of year when the city doesn't strictly enforce those rules.

Dufty has taken credit for shutting down the party and keeping the city's plans for security under seal, but he admitted Oct. 31 to the Chron's gossip hounds, Matier and Ross, that next year's event could look different. It'll be on a Friday.

Police Commission president Theresa Sparks said she's been told the event cost the city half what it did last year, including overtime for law enforcement, but she still hadn't received dollar figures when we reached her Nov. 1. She had been skeptical that the crowds could be contained, considering that the city's scheme was simply to announce that there would be no party. "But I think it was extremely well coordinated.... It went off better than expected." But she still believes planning should have begun far sooner. Police Chief Fong will give the commission a report about Halloween on Nov. 7.

So is the answer to shut down the Castro every year? No, Sparks said, but Halloween has to be made into "a citywide celebration, not just a neighborhood celebration."

Steven T. Jones and Sara Knight contributed to this story.

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