Castro Plans for No Pink Saturday

  • by Seth Hemmelgarn
  • Saturday June 18, 2016
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People cheered in the streets at the 2012 Pink Saturday party
People cheered in the streets at the 2012 Pink Saturday party

This year marks the first time in almost three decades that there won't be a planned celebration in San Francisco's Castro district the night before the city's LGBT Pride parade.

However, officials are still preparing for crowds and working to ensure safety Saturday, June 25, especially in light of the mass shooting at the gay Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida. As of Monday, 49 people and the shooter had died in the incident, which is still under investigation.

Over the years, thousands of people have flocked to San Francisco's main gay neighborhood to celebrate Pride. Every year, streets were shut down and DJs at multiple stages entertained masses of people.

But safety concerns led the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which had for years organized the party known as Pink Saturday, to call off their festival in 2015. The San Francisco LGBT Community Center then worked with the city to organize what they called Pink Party instead.

This year, there's no official party, and the streets will remain open for most of the evening. Still, large crowds are expected.

In a news release Monday, Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, announced he'd bring together "members of the LGBT nightlife community and the San Francisco Police Department to address public safety concerns" raised by the Orlando shooting.

Bar and club owners from the Castro and South of Market neighborhoods were expected to meet Wednesday with Wiener and police officials to discuss plans for the city's LGBT Pride celebrations.

Although the official Pride festival takes place in Civic Center near City Hall, thousands of people will make their way to the Castro and other neighborhoods throughout the weekend.

In an interview before the Orlando shooting, Wiener said his office has been meeting with police and other departments, and groups including Castro Merchants, on plans for June 25.

"We'll be prepared," he said. "There will be porta potties, and there will be a significant focus by the police to make sure everything is peaceful in the neighborhood."

Captain Dan Perea, who oversees the Mission police station, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Wiener said bars aren't being asked to close early.

When the Dyke March arrives in the Castro that Saturday night, he said, the streets would be temporarily closed, but they won't be shut down for the whole night.

"Our plan is to transfer people onto the sidewalks and have a wonderful evening in the Castro," Wiener said.

Dyke March rally programming is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. June 25 in Dolores Park. The march will start at 6 p.m. at 18th and Dolores streets and head to the Castro.

"There will be a communication effort" to make sure people know there's no street party this year, Wiener said, but he couldn't say exactly what that would look like.

Bar Safety

In Wiener's news release Monday, Tim Eicher, who co-owns the Castro bars Beaux, Q Bar, and Midnight Sun, said, "We are all saddened by the events in Orlando and pray for the people affected by the attack. With Pride right around the corner, we are doing everything possible to ensure that we keep our employees and customers safe."

Eicher said that he and others are working with police and Wiener to review bars' security measures in light of the shooting.

"We have a well-trained and certified security staff at each of our venues and we plan to have significantly increased security staff throughout Pride, as we do every year," he said. "We also expect to roll out enhanced security procedures" after talking to Wiener's staff and police.

Eicher said in an interview Monday that he doesn't "anticipate any particular problems," but "we want to do everything we can" to ensure safety for employees, guests, and the rest of the community.

"I wouldn't say that I'm overly concerned," he said. "It's more that I'm cautious. I feel like we need to take any precautions we can."

Eicher said that he and others "haven't made any specific decisions about added security measures," but his bar staff would be inspecting people's bags, which they've done before.

They're also considering adding metal detector wands, which would be new, as well as having off-duty officers outside some of the bigger venues.

Eicher said he wants people "to have a good time, to celebrate Pride, and be alert. Don't let this act of terrorism stop us from living our lives and celebrating our community. We will do our part to keep everyone safe just as SFPD will, and all the various city agencies. I just want people to come out and have a good time."

Andrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, said Monday that Perea and Wiener have told her there would be "much more added enforcement Saturday night" and during the Pride celebration.

The police presence would be "more than what [police] had anticipated" before the Orlando shooting, Aiello said.

"I feel like they understand the gravity of the situation, and that they will step up," she said.

"Everybody's concerned" about safety, said Aiello, who attended a vigil for the Orlando shooting victims Sunday night in the Castro.

"Certainly last night people were talking about how do you stop this from happening in a bar? Anybody can walk into any bar and do this," she said.

Aiello echoed Eicher's remarks, saying, "I think we're all grieving, and we're all angry," but "You have to keep living. ... I think that you have to just do what you have to do. You have to live."

An event called Pink Saturday Unchained is planned for 3 to 10 p.m. June 25 in the parking lot across the street from the SF Eagle bar, at 398 12th Street.

A Facebook page for the event says that the Sisters are teaming up with the Eagle "to make Pink Saturday great again!"

The party will be "admission only," the page says.

"We're excited for this opportunity to create a joyful, sane alternative to the Castro for our community."

More information wasn't available Monday afternoon.