SantaCon — two solutions to save the Christmas pub crawl
SantaCon is an annual event that, according to the website, is now happening in 397 cities across 52 countries. Here's the problem. People sometimes go too far and get completely out of control.
Over the weekend, SantaCon devotees put on their Christmas-best Santa outfits and descended upon Hoboken, New Jersey in order to take advantage of drink specials in participating bars and restaurants starting as early as 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The good news is that local restaurants and bars most likely had a nice windfall of cash and that's great for the local economy. The bad news is that so many revelers got out of control that the Hoboken Police arrested 17 of them for everything from public drunkenness to assault.
The police are understandably annoyed and concerned about the lawlessness that comes with an event like this. Seems this year, however, was much worse than expected. My Chasing News colleague Allison Gormly also caught up with the Chief to discuss what happened over the weekend.
Some have essentially called for the end of the event in Hoboken. They include the incoming mayor saying that the event is "disgraceful" and "not unacceptable."
OK, let's slow down a bit. I think that when you balance the boost in economic activity and the great job done by law enforcement, there's a middle ground here. My thought is that participating bars should be forced to pay for the additional law enforcement required to maintain order and peace in the streets. The problem in Hoboken is the history of "ban first, then ask questions." Remember the St. Patrick's Day parade?
Looks like SantaCon may suffer the same fate if the bar owners don't step up and take some responsibility. Part of the problem is American binge drinking. Part of the problem is that people do need to let off steam, especially in our up tight society where anything you say or do is likely to offend someone and accusations are accepted without evidence costing people their jobs. People are stressed and moving fast and when that is mixed with shots of booze at 10 a.m., it could be a bad combination.
Two solutions. First, lower the drinking age in the US. It should be 18 and exceptions should be made for even younger kids when dining out with parents. Kids need to learn how to drink. Look at the out-of-control fraternity behavior on college campuses. It's not a fix-all solution, but teaching younger people how to enjoy and respect alcohol may go a long way to curbing binge drinking.
The second is to hold the bars financially accountable for the need for additional first responder services. Let them make a financial decision as to whether the event is worth the added cost. They are benefiting greatly by the increased traffic through their bars. Why should the taxpayers bear the burden of the cost of EMTs and cops?
It's time to stand up for the residents of Hoboken who have to endure this nonsense on their streets every year. It's also time to stand up for law enforcement who have to risk their safety to remove the disorderly drunks from the crowd. Save SantaCon, but do it the right way.
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