It’s a day that gives Santa Claus a bad name and makes New Yorkers want to flee to the North Pole.
Consider yourself warned, for this coming Saturday brings the 20th anniversary of the apocalypse that is SantaCon: an all-day (and night) pub crawl where revelers, dressed as bedraggled Saint Nicks, stumble and vomit their way across the city.
As City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) tweeted two years ago: “Being in Midtown during SantaCon makes me want to restore higher penalties for public urination for just this one day.”
Hillary Latos agrees.
“These hooligans use it as an excuse to get wasted and terrorize our city. They’re drunk from 8 a.m. until 4 a.m. the next day,” says Latos of the SantaCon participants who parade past her Midtown East apartment. “At 8 a.m. they’re already throwing up. They pee on the street. Nothing is more disturbing than seeing drunk Santas and slutty elves first thing in the morning.”
Latos, who works in media, ventures out only to walk her Chihuahua during SantaCon, but even that is enough to witness drunken sidewalk brawls.
“I’ve seen [attendees] get violent. You see all these girls passed out on the street, almost like a date rape waiting to happen. It’s a nightmare,” she says.
It also has led to 24-hour alcohol bans on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains, as well as some city businesses — among them Tompkins Square Bagels in the East Village — barring drunk Santas.
Charline Smith flew to NYC from her native Scotland last year to attend her first SantaCon — and the 45-year-old vintage-fashion model was horrified.
Clad in a red-velvet Santa’s helper costume, Smith had to fend off unwanted advances.
“One guy got really frisky and overstepped his bounds,” she says of a fellow carouser at a Midtown bar. “He came over to me and . . . was pretty forward, touching me and pulling me.” The aggressive Santa kissed her — and that’s when his wife stormed over. “She was furious.”
Like the plague, the horror has spread across the Hudson River. Last year’s Hoboken SantaCon resulted in 17 arrests, including a woman charged with aggravated assault for allegedly punching an officer in the face. (This year’s Hoboken event takes place Dec. 15.)
John Argento, owner of Zeppelin Hall in Jersey City, recalled an incident a couple of SantaCons ago when he walked into the bar’s basement and caught a partially robed elf and Father Christmas about to have sex.
“I kicked them out. Nobody apologized. The girl just giggled and pulled up her outfit,” says Argento. Last year, a SantaCon partier projectile-vomited in the bar. “People think it’s a license for excess, putting on those outfits.”
Still, there is the occasional happy ending.
Oluwale Bamgbose, a self-defense instructor from Queens, says his skills came in handy two years ago when an unruly SantaCon attendee got out of hand at a neighborhood bar, shoving a woman against a wall.
“I told him if he wants to fight, ‘Do it in a boxing ring or a cage,’ ” Bamgbose says. The drunkard tried to throw a punch at Bamgbose, who wrestled him to the ground before security booted the bad Santa.
“I invited him to come down and train with [me] so he could learn better self-control,” Bamgbose says. A week later, the Santa showed up at his gym. He trained there for a year before moving away — and never went back to SantaCon.
“I’m glad I was there to help . . . put a man on the right path,” says Bamgbose.
As for Latos, she’s not taking any chances this year. “I’m going to Sri Lanka during SantaCon,” she says. “I want to be as far away as possible.”
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