Oakland's First Fridays to go on hiatus, blames shrinking space, revenue

Oakland’s popular First Fridays street fair is a family-friendly event attracting tens of thousands of patrons every month.

But organizers say the non-profit just isn’t bringing in enough money.

The Oakland tradition will soon be going on hiatus.

A funky beat and the sweet scent of buttery-grilled goodness filled the air at First Fridays in Oakland’s KONO district.

"Just know it’s got a lot of love in it," Sandy Johnson said.

Johnson is one of the many food vendors at the event.

First Fridays is her biggest moneymaker all month long.

She’s worried about the event being put on the back burner.

"It’s going to leave a lot of vendors stuck," Johnson said.

Melanin Gang has been networking and selling clothing at the community gathering spot for three years.

"It’s everything to me, to our family, as a matter of fact," Melanin Gang owner Mohammed Shuaibe told KTVU. "First Fridays has put food on the table. First Fridays has paid the rent quite literally."

Organizers blame a lack of revenue for the decision to put the monthly gathering on hold.

Operating costs are rising to the tune of $45,000 for the one-night event.

Less money is coming in because the list of vendors is shrinking since they are running out of room.

"We actually lost a bunch of vendor space when they put in this protective bike lane," organizer Venessa McGhee said.

They have gone from up to 100 vendors before the permanent, raised curb bike lane, to no more than 75 now.

Organizers are hoping the city can serve up more space.

"We definitely need to work together to make this work for everyone."

Attendance numbers are not down.

They’re bringing in anywhere from 15,000 to 35,000 per event.

Yvette Ciocco, who brought her family out, will miss it.

"It will be a bummer not coming out," Ciocco said.

The non-profit depends on vendor fees, donations, sponsors, and grants to keep coming back, which helps small business owners make ends meet and brings the community together.

"This is how we feed our kids," Johnson said. "This is very important to us."

First Fridays is still on for December, but they are going on hiatus in the new year.

They won’t be back until April.