Photos: Multiple Arrests & One Officer Bitten At ‘Turnt’ Hoboken SantaCon
We’ve extensively covered the annual binge-drinking holiday known as SantaCon in the city, but we never before dared to set foot across the river and face the total sleighshow that is Hoboken SantaCon. This is an event which SantaCon NYC organizers have continually distanced themselves from: “We do not condone how it is run nor any actions that may have put SantaCon Hoboken on the naughty list,” the group tweeted this weekend. It’s an event at which 14 people were arrested, four officers were injured, and a bloody brawl broke out at a Johnny Rockets last year. It’s an event which John Oliver singled out in a new video: “Just think about that. ‘Arrested doing SantaCon in Hoboken, New Jersey.’ That might be literally the saddest sentence in existence. It is way worse than, ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn,’ because at least that baby was just dead, and not arrested in a Santa outfit in Hoboken, New Jersey.”
But this year, things were relatively boring, at least compared to the mess in 2018. According to photographer Gretchen Robinette, the most notable thing was the terribly long lines everywhere—only 11 bars (out of 140 places with liquor licenses in the city) participated in this year’s event, so hundreds of people spent their Saturday mornings standing on line for bars like The Pig and Parrot and Mikey Squared Bar. She didn’t witness any fights at Johnny Rockets, but she did speak to a lot of participants who all seemed to be united in their reason for being there.
“Just came to drink. We’ve been here since 9:45 a.m,” said Chris Marrero of South Plainfield. “I like drinking and I like Christmas, so why not?” said a man named Richie. Aaron Childs, who came up from Baltimore for the occasion, said he was there “to get turnt! And also for the Christmas cheer.”
“Basically everyone I spoke to at SantaCon was from New Jersey, and none of them had ever participated in SantaCon in Hoboken or anywhere else in previous years,” Robinette said. “And as to be expected, pretty much every single quote from every person there stated that they just came to drink. Nothing else to the event. They all just came to drink and hangout with friends. No one seemed to be any type of hardcore Santa fanatic with any other agenda for SantaCon, just an excuse to drink and dress up.”
It seems that local police and fire departments have significantly stepped up enforcement around the event after the terrible press it garnered in previous years. There were several groups of policemen standing around near each bar, and the fire department came by to say certain bars were at capacity and no one else could get in until the same number of people left—and with lots of people lingering inside, that left a lot of people out in the cold for long stretches of the day.
Of course, just because there was no chaos at 11 a.m. doesn’t mean there weren’t problems later in the day. Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante said there was eight arrests altogether during the day, and between 8 a.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday, police responded to 521 calls for service (up from 429 in 2018). So clearly things did get a bit…turnt.
The eight arrests included a 29-year-old man taken in for criminal trespass and obstruction; a 26-year-old was arrested for aggravated assault on an officer, resisting arrest & possession of drug paraphernalia (he allegedly bit one officer and injured another’s officer elbow); a 27-year-old was arrested for drug possession; and five others were arrested for DWIs.
There were also over 80 summonses given out, and 20 people were taken to the hospital for alcohol-related issues:
There were 49 City Ordinance Summonses issued (33 were for open containers of alcohol in public & total # is up from 34 last year). There were 34 Motor Vehicle Moving Violation Summonses Issued. 20 individuals were transported to hospitals for alcohol related issues,down from 32!
— Chief Ken Ferrante (@KenFerrante) December 8, 2019
Ferrante also had no patience for the narrative that this was a charity event: “The organizers & participating bars set up a wristband (at a cost) system w/drink specials & try to publicize the event as a ‘charity’ event, urging those coming to the city to bring toys for underpriviledged children. That’s a sham as I didn’t see 1 person in 20 hrs with a gift.”
So will things be as relatively controlled at SantaCon NYC—which is happening next week, on Saturday December 14th—as it was in Hoboken? Or will we see a return to the Bad Old Days of Duane Reade Santa-on-Santa action? Or will everyone end up lost at sea on one of those SantaCon party yachts?