What to do about Halloween

Garden gnome and friends, photo by forty42two Every year the Town of Chapel Hill gears up for the enormous crowds that come to Franklin Street on Halloween, whether we want them to or not. I've been participating in this ritual on and off since I was an undergrad at UNC (in other words, a long time) and I think it has value for the community. While some individuals will always take it too far, most people are engaging in a healthy type of creative expression that is rare for adults.

I think the Town has done a good job of prohibiting alcohol and trying to control traffic. I also applaud the police department for understanding that this is event is a force of nature that can be controlled (somewhat) but not stopped. I'd like to suggest that we charge admission to the area. I think this would help keep the worst elements out of the mix and help pay for the enormous cost of hosting a Halloween party for revellers from across central North Carolina.

Town officials have discussed implementing a curfew, charging for entrance to Franklin Street, offering alternate activities and closing bars early, Mayor Kevin Foy said Wednesday.

"The trend is toward larger and larger crowds; the trend is toward longer and longer nights, and that's a trend that we need to reverse," Foy said.

The plans are in the preliminary phase; a group of town leaders will meet next week to go into more detail. But Foy said the town will focus on decreasing the number of people who come downtown from other cities.

"I think the first thing is to make it clear to people that they're not invited," Foy said. "It's a local party."

The Halloween celebration regularly attracts about 80,000 people and costs more than $200,000 to secure, town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko said.

- The Daily Tarheel:  Hosting Halloween too costly?, 8/21/08

80,000 is an incredible number when you realize just over 120,000 people (including children) live in all of Orange County, less than half of that in Chapel Hill. Here are some more photos of people enjoying Halloween on Franklin Street:

  Haunted house, photo by forty42two     Drivers license, photo by Te lo juro por Madonna     Bumble bee, photo by forty42two        Living portrait, photo by Te lo juro por Madonna    



Wonder if the Franklin St. merchants - notably those worried about losing huge amounts of money on alcohol sales - would consider paying a Hallowe'en surcharge from their profits to help cover the cost of bringing in outside police.

In the years to come it may well serve us better to be proactive and inclusive, rather than reactionary isolaitonists.

At 3:00pm, Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil announced an agreement had been reached with downtown businesses regarding their operation on Halloween. The following are the changes that will occur on Halloween night:

·         Downtown restaurants and bars will not allow any new patrons after 1:00am;  ·         Beginning at 10pm, bars and restaurants will charge a minimum $5 cover charge to patrons not attending a private event;·         Downtown convenience stores selling alcohol will either close or stop selling alcohol at 1am;·         Franklin Street will be reopened to traffic at midnight;·         The Park and Ride shuttles will be shut down Halloween night;

·         Traffic coming into downtown will either be rerouted or narrowed to one lane.

I'm skeptical of this plan. In fact, I'm considering going uptown for the first time in years just to protest the changes. Or maybe we should start going to Carrboro, where freaks are still welcome. ;-)

I'm not making this up, this is the Town's official communique on Halloween:

 Homegrown Halloween

And here's their latest press release (I only got it by e-mail, can't find on the web site):

Town Manager Roger L. Stancil announced today (Wednesday, Oct. 15) that an agreement has been reached with downtown business owners concerning their operations on Halloween night. As part of the Town's efforts to enhance a safe and community-oriented event, downtown restaurants and bars will close their doors at 1 a.m. to new patrons. They also will charge a minimum $5 cover charge to patrons not attending a private event. In addition, downtown convenience stores that sell alcohol will either close their doors or stop selling alcohol at 1 a.m.

"The Town has embarked on a unique partnership and collaboration with businesses in order to reverse a trend with an event that has gotten out of hand," Stancil said. "They are working jointly with us to design solutions for future events. Addressing alcohol sales is an important part of this effort."

Stancil was joined by Mayor Kevin Foy, Police Chief Brian Curran, Scott Maitland of Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, and representatives from UNC-Chapel Hill student government at the news conference for the announcement. Stancil said the Town's collaboration has extended also to the University as planning meetings with Student Affairs and others highlight the shared commitment toward improving an event that has grown beyond what the Town can effectively manage.

Changes this year mark the first in a multi-year effort to return the Halloween event to its earlier days when it was more community-oriented, smaller and safer. Interested parties in the community plan to work with Town leaders on Halloween 2009 in November of 2008.

This year, changes to Halloween on Franklin Street are as follows:

- Restricted access to downtown through lane and street closures starting at 8 p.m.
- No special event park and ride bus shuttles.
- Parking will be essentially unavailable downtown.
- While Franklin Street is typically closed to traffic at about 9 p.m., Police plan to reopen the street at midnight.
- Chapel Hill Transit will run its usual bus routes although some will be rerouted due to the traffic diversion plan. The Safe Ride bus routes normally in place on the weekends will be available to transport community members and UNC students away from downtown.

"There's good news and bad news about Halloween on Franklin Street," said Chief Curran. "The good news is that the Town of Chapel Hill is making changes to reduce the size of the event and make it safer for the local community. The bad news is that if you're from out of town, you will have a difficult time getting anywhere near Franklin Street. Find somewhere else to celebrate."

Chief Curran said that the changes to alcohol sales address a crowd management issue. By closing bars and restaurants at 1 a.m. to new patrons, crowds that will be leaving Franklin Street must also leave the downtown area.

Mayor Kevin Foy has said that Halloween on Franklin Street no longer reflects the character of our great community. It will take time to return Halloween on Franklin Street to the family friendly, grassroots celebration that it once was.

For more about Halloween on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, visit www.townofchapelhill.org/halloween


"In fact, I'm considering going uptown for the first time in years just to protest the changes."

 Ruby -- just for curiousity's sake, what are the "changes" that have you up in arms enough to protest? 

I was planning on going to downtown as a part of a group of about 7 Chapel Hill & Carrboro residents, and it sounds like its going to be much harder for us to get there.  I understand the council's reasoning for wanting to keep things under control & reducing access to alcohol helps with that, but now with the new busing policy they are discouraging Chapel Hill residents who don't live within walking distance of downtoad from coming.  I already have plans set up, so I'm still going this year, but if they've made it too much of a hassle, then I'm less likely to go next year.

I feel like they waited a little too late to make this decision as well, I'm betting even the out-of-towners from across the tarheel state that this was meant to discourage will still come as they already have plans set up too, and that the news about making the event less enjoyable wont have enough time to spread out and reach the masses.

This is a link to the latest information on the Town of Chapel Hill website: 


Some fare-free transit service will continue into the evening on Halloween, as on most Fridays. UNC's Safe-Ride service will also continue for a while.

The transit shuttles were not fare-free. In fact, they were the only cost center with a "profit" on Halloween for the Town. In the year with the highest "take", money-wise, it was about 3 percent of the entire cost of the evening for taxpayers. It was overwhelmed by the expense of over paying over 400 law enforcement officers and by overtime pay for clean-up, among other needs. 



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