Local News

Chapel Hill wants to scale back Halloween celebration

Posted September 22, 2008

— Chapel Hill's town officials recommended to town leaders Monday evening that they establish a multiyear plan to reduce the size of the downtown Halloween bash, which attracted more than 80,000 people last year.

In a recent Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce survey, nearly a third of downtown business owners said their businesses suffered from the annual party.

Each year, the crowd has grown, Chapel Hill's police chief and parks and recreation director says in a Sept. 22 memo to Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil. Measures, they say, need to be taken to prevent serious incidents before resources to control the crowd become substantially limited.

"It has gotten too big. It can get out of hand,” Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy said.

The town is concerned about binge drinking, crime and the growing presence of gang members at the event.

"This event has grown to the point where senior staff believes that it has become so large as to pose a significant risk to public safety," the memo said.

Last year's celebration, which is not a town-sponsored event, cost the town approximately $221,000 for security, cleanup, crowd control, emergency medical care and other expenses.

Police Chief Brian Curran and parks and recreation Director Ray Kisiah say it could take several years to return the event to a more manageable size. Developing a concrete action plan will require cooperation and discussion among community members, including the town, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the media.

Among the recommendations so far is to conduct an "aggressive public information campaign" ahead of the bash, limit alcohol sales for part of Halloween night and discontinue the use of the town's shuttle service.

An alternative would be to restrict access to the Franklin Street area by conducting checkpoints more than a mile away along major transportation corridors.

Chamber of Commerce Vice President Adam Klein says that from a business standpoint, scaling back is something that must be done.

"I think it's definitely critical," he said.

In the Chamber of Commerce poll, 28 percent of downtown businesses said Halloween night had a negative impact on business, compared with 24 percent who reported a boost in revenue.

Forty-five percent of businesses reported slight damage from the revelry, and another 19 percent reported major damage to their establishments.

Other downtown events got better reviews from business owners, with only 9 percent saying those events were bad for business.

Last year, more than 82,000 people attended the bash on Franklin Street, while 400 law enforcement officers set up a perimeter around the party area and arrested 13 people.

Orange County Emergency Medical Services responded to 31 calls and took eight people to the hospital. EMS workers said 21 of the calls were related to intoxication.

A year earlier, about 70,000 revelers had shown up on Franklin Street, and police arrested or cited 27 people.

"It's going to be hard to enforce," said Katie Bilzi, an employee at Franklin Street's Four Corners bar. "I mean, I don't know how they are going to get people not to come out. They are going to come, regardless."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • kcfoxie Sep 23, 2008

    I'm sorry, but I don't see cars being destroyed or trash cans being lit on fire (al la Hurricanes winning the cup in raleigh) during the halloween event.

    I have to agree that this is come up because some folks decided to go into public service and are upset they must work their job on nights when others with mundane jobs get the time to spend with their families (I'd take a random thursday with no bewhaha going on for some real family time IMHO and not halloween night), people who listened to Forbes and bought a quaint part of america's small towns and are rilled up that kids basically own the place (and they do), and the simple fact that people can't learn to let their hair down.

    It's chapel hill. WHEN someone gets shot, shut it down. Speculation gets you nothing but high gas prices.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Sep 23, 2008

    What would charging admission do to the businesses? Would everyone going to Pepper's Pizza have to pay $5 to get past the gates?

    And, twright530, are you jealous that the Dems know how to party?! LOL "They did the Mash! It caught on in a flash..."

  • lilreno is in the wind Sep 23, 2008

    I'm glad to know that I'm not welcomed there, of course I wasn't going anyway.

  • twright530 Sep 23, 2008

    The Democrats gotta go someplace where they fit in.

  • starrider99 Sep 23, 2008

    When gang members get interested in your event, it will inevitably go to h in a hand basket... It's a shame that a few ruin a nice celebration for the rest...

  • Dr. Dataclerk Sep 23, 2008

    I say cancel the whole event. These are yound adults that are acting like children. Only thing is they are abusing drugs, drinking alcohol and smoking. It will be a dangerous event for anyone to be. Just looking at the pictures makes me not want to be a part of this mess and crowd. CANCEL THE HALLOWEEN EVENT!

  • SaveEnergyMan Sep 23, 2008

    Last I checked this was a free country and Chapel Hill, the bastion of liberalism, openness, and inclusiveness cannot discriminate against anyone coming in - except in a state of emergency. I understand the cost issue, but you either have it and charge admission (like 1st night) or you cancel it by keeping the roads open. You can't have it both ways. Where is the ACLU on this? Liberals are champions of free speech, free access, and free assembly, except when it doesn't suit them.

  • patrick85ed Sep 23, 2008

    Just boycott the whole of downtown over Haloween, if those business owners thought a party hurt their business that would really send them a message. When I was at ECU during the 80's way more people than that would come to the block party for haloween and the businesses loved the extra dough they made despite the few rowdy party gowers.

  • CozyCake Sep 22, 2008

    I think the area should be roped off and an admission charged. The money will go towards the added police patrol and the rest given to a charity (ie. the Red Cross). Make the direction of the party positive. Take it back and have a good party, not a time to get drunk and hurt people.

  • Phoenix68 Sep 22, 2008

    As a law enforcement officer that has worked the Halloween festivities in Chapel Hill 8 years in a row (more often TOLD to work instead of volunteering) I would welcome the end to the event. Personally, this is another holiday event that takes away from officers spending time with their families. As for the comment earlier "only 13 arrests - that's great!" Statistically, you are correct. But what about the multiple armed robberies, people being shot and severely beaten? There are so many things going on that the general public doesn't know about. How many arrests do you think 400 officers can make with a crowd of 82,000? It's more about managing the festivities with numbers like that. The "bad element" is the gang members that show up late in the evening, not wanting to celebrate Halloween but to prey on the locals.

    Give the streets back to the locals and business owners - let the cops stay home with their families. Find something more constructive to do with your Halloween..