Halloween draws a crowd to San Francisco's Castro District

People flocked to San Francisco’s Castro District Halloween night, but it was not like the crowds in the past.

Officials in San Francisco have been urging people to stay away from what has become the defacto party spot on Halloween.

For decades, going to the Castro has always been a treat for Halloween revelers.

And it’s normally beneficial for the bars and restaurants, but this year, the same people who would benefit from the crowd are urging them to stay away.

Before nightfall, the Castro was bustling with activity as people wined and dined at restaurants that normally reap the rewards from a big Halloween crowd.

This year though, those same establishments are voluntarily shutting down early at 9 p.m. at the urging of the city as a way to deter crowds, a move with a financial cost to some businesses.

“I would say for Saturday night it’s going to be major. It’s going to be big closing early. It’s a prime time like 9 p.m. ‘til 11,” said Sam Khalili, manager of Cafe Mystique.

The Merchants Association says there could be a bigger cost if the Castro turns into a COVID-19 hot spot, causing the city to lose the progress it’s been making in the battle against the virus.

“Actually we are at tier yellow in the pandemic and we’ve done so well in San Francisco.  We want to keep it that way,” said Masood Samereie, president Castro Merchants.

A year ago, the Castro had it’s typical packed, raucous crowd, which has been lured to the area for several decades.

But it’s the exact type of scene the neighborhood is trying to avoid this year.

“For the matter of safety this year, based on the past experience, we thought it would be best to ask people not to come to Castro for tonight’s celebration,” said Samereie.

During the day, they did come, a mix of grownups and kids in costumes accompanied by parents.

And even during a pandemic, there was a sighting of some dressed up in their birthday suits.

“Well, we just saw a group of naked men, which is very unusual for me to see.  And we took pictures with them,” said Ananda Cousette.

As darkness drew near, more adults started to appear, a sign the Castro remains a magnet for crowds in costume.

But unlike years past, at least one attendee says this Halloween, he will not be looking for the afterparty.

“My goal is just to be here, be seen, see people and then after, go back home.  And that’s good for me,” said a young man dressed up in a dog super-hero costume.

SFPD didn’t comment on whether they had extra patrols in the area.

But the Merchants Association said it had been working with both the Department of Public Works and SFPD on crowd control.