NYC
12/12/2013 09:11 am ET

SantaCon In NYC Causes Long Island Railroad To Institute 24-Hour Booze Ban

Mario Tama via Getty Images

By Alan Neuhauser

MIDTOWN — Leave the eggnog at home.

The Long Island Rail Road is closing the doors on soused Santas this weekend — instituting a 24-hour booze ban from noon Saturday through noon Sunday that overlaps with the SantaCon bar crawl.

"We do it based on experience, based on when we've had difficulties….when we're going to be inundated with a lot of people under 21, or maybe just over 21, where they've created problems in the past," LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said.

The LIRR typically allows passengers to drink alcohol aboard the train, but it does "occasionally institute a ban for short periods of time," Arena said, such as on St. Patrick's Day and the night before Thanksgiving. It also prohibits alcohol consumption between midnight and 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

This weekend marks the second year the LIRR will ban alcohol on the same day as SantaCon.

"We want to make sure the ride in and the ride out is a peaceful one," Arena said.

New Jersey Transit, which also periodically bans booze from its trains, said it is considering taking similar steps this weekend.

"As of now, a final determination has not yet been made regarding our policy for Saturday/Sunday," spokesman Will Smith said in a statement Wednesday, adding that alcohol consumption is prohibited aboard its buses at all times.

The Port Authority, meanwhile, prohibits drinking on PATH trains. Representatives for Metro-North did not return a request for comment.

The ban comes amid an ongoing furor over SantaCon, which has grown from a gathering of about 200 Santa-clad revelers to several thousand over the past decade. Participants were described as "intoxicated partygoers" who "roam the streets urinating, littering, vomiting and vandalizing," in a letter written by Midtown North Precinct Lieutenant John Cocchi, urging about 30 bars and clubs not to support SantaCon this year.

"The number of participants has grown large enough to completely overwhelm the sidewalks and public spaces," Cocchi wrote. "The past events have been extremely disruptive to the community members quality of life."

A group of nine city and state politicians agreed, labeling the event a "scourge" that organizers must "rein in."

SantaCon organizers did not return requests for comment, but noted in a previous statement that "Santacon has grown faster than Santa ever could have imagined," creating "growing pains" like at other events, including the annual Village Halloween Parade.

"Santa is working even more closely with local community leaders and organizations to ensure that the event remains enjoyable for locals and Santas alike," the statement added.

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