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San Francisco’s Notorious SantaCon Celebration Might Be Canceled

Organizers say the 2020 event might take a “different form”

SantaCon 2020 appears to be canceled, a likely disappointment to costumed revelers across SF

SantaCon, the San Francisco-founded pub crawl that began as an anarchically-intended bit of performance art but evolved into a costumed, drunken mess, might not be around for bartenders to complain about this year, as its organizers say that the pandemic has prompted a “different form” for the December 12, 2020 event.

SantaCon has taken over SF in one way or another since 1994. It was founded by the Burning-Man-adjacent San Francisco Cacophony Society after members were inspired by a 1970s-era Danish art event in which Santa-clad people protested against capitalism and consumerism, but somewhere along the way, SF’s version of the display transformed into an all-day drunkfest for tipplers and expanded into cities across the U.S.

In recent decades, SantaCon revelers attracted attention for allegedly trashing restaurants, brawling in bars, and throwing up on children. “SantaCon is bullshit,” Steve Kahler, a cashier at a pizza restaurant at Polk and Broadway, told the SF Examiner in 2019. “It’s an excuse for techies that aren’t from the city to get drunk at 10 a.m. and treat people in the service industry (poorly).”

But is it bullshit that might still go down during 2020’s COVID-19 spike of a holiday season? That’s not entirely clear. According to its carefully worded website, organizers are (boldface added) “not currently promoting this event as part of Santa’s effort to discourage large in-person gatherings,” but “this does not necessarily mean no event at all — it may be happening in a different form, with increased social distancing or it may even be virtual.”

Whatever is planned, “details will not be posted here,” organizers say. Meanwhile, the Facebook event page for SantaCon SF has been made private, so only members may view posts and details for any upcoming events. (An effort to contact SantaCon SF’s organizers has not been responded to as of publication time.)

That said, the Facebook page description now reads: “THE 2020 EVENT WAS CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19. DO NOT GO TO ANY LARGE GATHERING UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE POSSIBLE SPREAD OF THIS VIRAL DISEASE.” According to that all-caps announcement, the next SantaCon won’t happen until December 11, 2021, which should give bartenders plenty of time to brace for unruly, costumed patrons.