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SantaCon's Been Too Naughty to Come to Town, Midtown Police Say

By Alan Neuhauser | November 21, 2013 6:52am | Updated on November 22, 2013 8:33am
 The NYPD's  Midtown North Precinct  sent letters to about 30 bars, clubs and lounges in  Midtown  and  Hell's Kitchen  earlier this month, urging the nightspots not to welcome the event, an annual day-long bar-crawl for hundreds if not thousands of revelers dressed as Santa Clause.
Police Urge Bars to Refuse SantaCon Revelers
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MIDTOWN — SantaCon's sleigh bells are being silenced in Midtown.

The NYPD's Midtown North Precinct sent letters to about 30 bars, clubs and lounges in Midtown and Hell's Kitchen earlier this month, urging the nightspots not to welcome participants in the annual daylong bar crawl for hundreds of bearded, red-and-white-clad revelers.

"The number of participants has grown large enough to completely overwhelm the sidewalks and public spaces," Lt. John Cocchi, head of the precinct's Special Operations division, wrote in the letter, which he sent to members of a Bar & Club Association he founded in September.

"Having thousands of intoxicated partygoers roam the streets urinating, littering, vomiting and vandalizing will not be tolerated in our neighborhood," he said to the bar managers he contacted in the precinct, the borders of which are roughly bounded by 45th to 59th streets, between Park Avenue and the Hudson River. 

"It is my recommendation that you do not sponsor this event in any way."

Most Bar & Club Association's members have responded and promised to comply, Cocchi said.

"As a bar operator, I don't want to let anyone in that's going to cause any drama," said Gavin O'Neil, 40, manager of Tonic in Times Square. "So if the police tell me not to let a group in, or to not serve a group, I'm not going to."

Others agreed.

"We responded to the community. We have our business in the community and we plan on being here a long time," said Steve Steckel, general manager of the nightclub/concert venue Stage 48 on West 48th Street at 11th Avenue, which turned down SantaCon's request to hold its after-party there after receiving Cocchi's letter.

"Since the community and the police precinct have a negative feeling, why kick the hornet's nest?"

Steckel received loud applause and shouts of "Thank you, Steve!" from residents attending the precinct's monthly community council meeting Tuesday night.

Neighbors and block associations have complained about the boozy event since participants flooded Hell's Kitchen last year. At repeated community board and precinct community council meetings, they have urged police and local officials to do something about the event.

"My children and I witnessed public urination, assaults on locals and outright nudity during the eight hours the Santas were in our neighborhood," Katherine Consuelo-Johnson, a mother and member of Community Board 4 in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, wrote in a Sept. 27 email to a SantaCon organizer.

"As a parent of small children I had to explain why Santa was misbehaving. That was a conversation that should of (sic) never happened."

The organizer, who identified himself only as "Saint Nick," claimed in a reply To Consuelo-Johnson and others that the event raised about $45,000 last year for the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program. A charity representative, however, said that SantaCon was not a sanctioned event.

"We do not have any information on this event," Toys for Tots operations chief David Adamson said in a Sept. 27 email. "I have asked my V.P. of marketing about this and showed him the flier that is attached. He says he has never seen this and would not approve this."

The SantaCon organizer, in a press release sent Thursday night, acknowledged that the event "has had growing pains."

"Santa agrees that there is no excuse for inappropriate behavior," the organizer wrote. "Public drunkenness, urination or rude behavior is not only prohibited by the stated rules of the event, but actively discouraged by the crowds of Santas themselves, who are for the most part, responsible, creative community­minded New Yorkers. NYC Santa realizes that he has a responsibility to New York City and its citizens."

SantaCon participants, "Saint Nick" added, will be asked to donate $10 each to go toward the Food Bank for New York City, FIGMENT Arts Festival, World Hoops, and other local charities.

The location of this year's SantaCon, to be held Dec. 14, won't be announced until a few days before the event, according to both Cocchi and the event's website.

In September, the SantaCon organizer promised that the event would not return to the neighborhood.

"As far as coming to Hell's Kitchen this year," the person wrote, "you don't have anything to worry about."