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Merchants group demands City Hall halt Golden Gate Park pop-up events

A view of cyclists and pedstrians on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif on Mar. 24, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

A Richmond neighborhood merchants association issued a letter to city officials demanding an end to pop-up events in Golden Gate Park that exclude nearby small businesses.

The Greater Geary Boulevard Merchants and Property Owners Association sent the letter in response to two beer garden pop-ups on the park’s John F. Kennedy Drive organized by the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department over the previous two weekends.

“As you know, San Francisco’s small businesses are the lifeblood of the city, especially as the downtown business corridor continues to struggle because of people working from home,” the association’s leader David Heller wrote. “Instead of working to promote and support our local businesses, your department continues to prop up businesses with little to no connection with the community.”

Heller directed the letter to Rec and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg but also called out Mayor London Breed and Supervisors Connie Chan and Gordon Mar.

He criticized the sales of alcoholic beverages at the pop-ups, worried that their sales in an area with lots of bicyclists would eventually lead to “an unfortunate accident.”

A Rec and Park representative countered that the beer garden pop-ups and similar events have a positive impact on the community, and that they invite local businesses to apply to participate. “Studies show lively, people-centered spaces like the JFK Promenade are good for both neighborhood businesses and the city’s economy. They attract more people and more activity—not just to the street itself but to surrounding areas,” Rec and Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton said.

The Mayor’s Office encouraged neighborhood merchants to apply. “Anyone interested in applying to participate in any number of San Francisco's ongoing events and opportunities is encouraged to apply here,” the mayor’s press secretary Parisa Safarzadeh said. “We would love to work with even more local merchants.”

In response to Heller’s safety concerns around the sale of alcoholic beverages in an area with lots of bikers, the parks department said that doing so has been approved by the San Francisco Police Department and that those who choose to drink at the events must do so safely. “Laws and regulations governing alcohol consumption and public safety apply to everyone, whether it’s a pop-up in the park or a bar or restaurant on Geary Boulevard,” Aparton said.

Chan, the supervisor who represents the Richmond, said she would support the parks department working with neighborhood businesses as vendors at the pop-up events. “As we witness a variety of temporary structure installations continue to occur on JFK Drive, I would urge Rec & Parks Department to work with our merchants and neighbors for their input so we can find ways to equitably share and contribute to this public space,” she said.

The office of Supervisor Mar was contacted for comment.