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SantaCon Headed to Hell's Kitchen, Community Board Fears

By  Lisha Arino and Sybile Penhirin | December 11, 2014 11:07am 

 Santas wait in line for beer during SantaCon 2014.
Santas wait in line for beer during SantaCon 2014.
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DNAinfo/Rosa Goldensohn

HELL'S KITCHEN — Ho, ho — no.

That’s the message Community Board 4 members gave to a pair of “renegade” Santas who turned up at a recent meeting looking for support to bring the annual SantaCon booze-fest to Hell's Kitchen.

“They were on a listening tour to see what neighborhoods felt about SantaCon and they came to our Quality of Life [Committee meeting] to show good faith,” said board member Katherine Consuelo-Johnson.

However, despite being clearly told the event wasn't welcome, its mystery organizers seem to still be planning to stage it on the west side.

The annual event will kick off with a private party at a Hell's Kitchen megaclub Pacha on Saturday morning, according to EV Grieve.

Stefan Pilades and a man who identified himself only as "Jim" — two longtime SantaCon participants who claimed they were not the leaders of the group — would not divulge details about the notorious costumed pub crawl to the board, even though they wanted help in working with the police and making next year’s event a more family-friendly affair.

“We want to get that element of surprise — of Christmas time — like you’re opening a Christmas present,” Consuelo-Johnson remembered them telling board members.

SantaCon organizers and "Jim" did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A phone number for Pilades did not work.

Organizers said they would publish the list of participating SantaCon bars on their website on Thursday evening, according to a statement released on Thursday. 

“Please patronize these venues only. If a venue isn’t on the list, it’s because they don’t want you there,” the statement read.

Organizers also said they were planning on "scaling back this weekend’s festivities in order to create the lowest possible impact on the city that (they) love", according to the statement.

Pilades and Jim expressed an interest in Hell's Kitchen, saying its concentration of bars, geography and easy access to transportation made it a “logical choice” for the event, Consuelo-Johnson said.

The men also said that a few businesses in the area had agreed to participate in SantaCon, but would not reveal that list to the Community Board.

At one point, when board members noted that the police department would be stretched thin because of a planned Eric Garner protest that same day, the SantaCon participants said their paths would not cross.

“I asked these guys if they were aware of the protest and they were like, ‘Yea. They were going to be down at Washington Square Park and we’re going to be there in Hell’s Kitchen,” Consuelo-Johnson said.

“How are we sure you’re going to be there if you don’t post your route?” she remembered asking in response.

Pilades and Jim also expressed a desire to legitimize SantaCon by turning it into a family-friendly event, with a 10:30 a.m. parade at the Pier 84, Consuelo-Johnson said.

SantaCon organizers expressed a similar sentiment Wednesday after issuing a press release that it had retained civil rights attorney Norman Siegel to help guide the event through a “transition.”

The board, however, remained skeptical and criticized the pair for reaching out at the last minute, she said. Members also spoke out strongly against SantaCon, which wrecked havoc two years ago when it took place in the neighborhood.

Despite her opposition to the event, she gave Jim and Pilades credit for coming to the community board and listening to their concerns.

“They were gracious enough and they took the beating,” she said, adding that they thanked the board for their suggestions before they left.

Community Board 4, which covers Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and Clinton, is not the only neighborhood to oppose SantaCon this year.

Last month, organizers pulled out of Bushwick after the Parks Department denied its application to use Maria Hernandez Park as a kick-off space. SantaCon also told Community Board 3, which covers the East Village and the Lower East Side, that it would not hold the event there this year.