San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers race to sober up
SAN FRANCISCO – Bay to Breakers runners can show up naked or dress up as a condom. They can even participate without paying the registration fee.
But organizers of the notoriously bawdy San Francisco footrace, which marks its centennial next May, declared a last call for alcohol Wednesday, challenging the 92,000 people who descend on the 7 1/2-mile course every year to show up sober.
After fielding complaints from residents along the route, losing a corporate sponsor and transporting 30 intoxicated people to the hospital this year, organizers of the nation’s 10th largest race were hoping to end the tradition of drinking, spokesman Sam Singer said.
Violators of the new ban will be arrested, cited and fined, said Angela Fang, the Bay to Breakers general manager.
“We want to have all the fun, the exuberance, the nakedness, but we don’t want anybody to get hurt,” said Singer.
Organizers have also banned floats, which organizers said were a vehicle for kegs and other alcohol containers.
Singer said insurance giant ING’s withdrawal after several years as the race’s sponsor did not provoke the alcohol ban, but that ensuring a safe race will likely make it easier to find a new sponsor.
He said entertainment company AEG, which runs the race, is talking to a half-dozen possible sponsors of the next event.
More than 20,000 people finish the 12K race from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, but some 70,000 others attend. Most are not registered participants and do not run.
“The secondary party that is created by people who are spectators, which endangers themselves as well as public and private property in San Francisco, is what we’re concerned about,” said Singer. “There’s no reason people have to get stone-faced drunk to have a good time in San Francisco.”
Singer said a “significant” number of police officers will be budgeted for next year’s race.
Race organizers have tried to tame boozy spectators in years past. In 2009, an effort to crack down on floats and alcohol was withdrawn following protest from participants.
Citizens for the Preservation of Bay2Breakers, a group that opposes the restrictions on floats and drinking, said AEG’s announcement was disappointing.
“It’s very few people that don’t support this,” said Ed Sharpless, the group’s founder. “They basically want to ruin the San Francisco tradition that Bay to Breakers has become over the last 100 years.”
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