Eight beers? Four beers? Connor Keeler of Fort Salonga wasn’t sure how many he’d had Saturday as he knocked back a Blue Point Toasted Lager out of a Santa hat.
In a beer garden on Manhattan’s West 33rd Street. At 10:30 a.m.
“First official beer, but I pre-gamed on the train on the way over,” said Keeler, 22, a biotechnologist. His red hat sheathed a pint glass.
No match for Keeler's holiday spirit was the Long Island Rail Road’s special ban on booze Saturday into Sunday, meant to mitigate this sort of carousing: It began at noon.
Keeler took a train at 8:40 a.m., he said.
“Long Island represent!” he screamed with a Santa beard and a $38 Santa Claus costume he’d bought on Amazon for New York City’s annual SantaCon bar crawl.
SantaCon began in San Francisco in 1994, when dozens dressed as Kriss Kringle and gathered to mock Christmastime consumerism. The event has morphed, and this year's SantaCon is coming to town in nearly 200 cities, including Hong Kong; Davenport, Iowa; Stockholm; Shanghai; Paris and Hanoi. The biggest is in New York City.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Keeler, on a break from a rendition of “Last Christmas” by Wham! with his friends from Northport and his alma mater, St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington. “No matter what religion, we’re all here, celebrating SantaCon!”
The NYPD and state Liquor Authority have in recent years sought to cleanse the event of public urinating, out-of-control outdoor boozing and other disorder.
Det. Sophia Mason, an NYPD spokeswoman, said Saturday afternoon that no SantaCon-related disorder had been reported.
More than five dozen bars, pubs, strip clubs, karaoke spots and raves from the East Village to midtown welcomed participants in the seasonally scorned, Yuletide bacchanal. It began Saturday morning outside Penn Station with Christmas carols, discounted booze, and hundreds of Santas and his helpers and radiated across Manhattan until the evening.
The New York City event has raised more than $400,000 for charity in the past five years, according to the official santacon.info website.
Dion Cini of Manhattan’s Upper West Side fashioned a Santa hat out of a Donald Trump “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” visor, and held open a sign reading “TRUMP 2020.”
In a billowing white costume beard, Cini said: “Trump loves Santa!”
Early Saturday morning, Christmas music blasted from loudspeakers onto 33rd Street just west of Seventh Avenue. Santas crowded into The Pennsy Food Hall above Penn Station bending elbows for $8 pints or $28 pitchers of Stella, Radeberger, Pennsy Lager or Guinness.
Jay Monroe, 28, an emergency medical technical from the Bronx, brought his date, Candice Ramey, 37, of Putnam County, a hospital office manager, to her first SantaCon.
The plan for Saturday?
“Just drink. Just party. Just have a great time. That’s it,” said Monroe, one beer in and more to come.
Keeler, the Fort Salonga biotechnologist drinking from the hat, said the imbibing itinerary was expected to last until about 8 p.m. He brought $100 in cash. But he also had his credit card.
By 8 p.m., some SantaCon bar crawlers screamed incoherently in the streets, some soaked up the booze with halal street food, some adjourned to house parties and some kept going.
On Second Avenue, east of Union Square, outside Professor Thom’s bar, seven twentysomethings, several of whom said they’d been drinking since morning, belted: “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”
Outside Durden, on the corner of 13th Street, two cops questioned a bearded man in a Santa onesie.
“She was that drunk?” one cop asked.
It was unclear what had happened.
Three blocks away, in unrelated misery, a drunken young woman in a Mrs. Santa skirt sat weeping on the sidewalk. Someone had just vomited, she said.
Just north, a homeless man named Dylan slouched on 14th Street sipping his third pineapple-flavored beer of the evening, two empty cans nearby.
“We wish you a blackout Christmas!” he mumbled at SantaCon passers-by.
In his shopping cart was clothing someone had just ditched: a barely used Santa costume.