Festivities over the Halloween weekend at downtown State Street bars gave rise to long lines, big crowds and a few serious incidents.
The combination of Halloween falling on a Sunday and mild weather over the weekend attracted a large number of people to the lower State Street area and resulted in one of the busiest weekends of the year. Both the downtown bars and the Santa Barbara Police Dept. (SBPD) increased their staff to cope with the larger crowds. The bars reported no major problems, but the SBPD made a number of arrests for serious crimes.
Lt. Paul McCaffrey, spokesman for the SBPD, said there was a gang fight on the 600 block of State Street, where several gang members were arrested.
“The fight was between two groups of about 10 people, with one group whose members primarily reside on the west side of town,” McCaffrey said. “A small baseball bat was used in the fight, which inflicted a head laceration requiring medical treatment. The victim was taken to the hospital, stitched and released.”
McCaffrey said another incident occurred at a popular nightclub on the 500 block of State Street. Two women were involved in a minor disturbance and scuffle when a third woman, Irina Ziemer, age 24, clobbered one woman with a beer bottle. The attack left the victim with bleeding lacerations on her scalp. Officers arrested Ziemer at the scene and booked her for assault with a deadly weapon.
In addition to the assaults on State Street, a SBPD press report said there was an altercation Saturday between two homeless men at the Milpas Street roundabout. For reasons still under investigation, Richard Koehrsen, age 44, attacked 44-year-old Gerardo Rodriguez, the press release said. It said Koehrsen first punched Rodriguez in the face, then swiped at his throat with a broken 40 oz. bottle, nicking his carotid artery. Rodriguez was rushed by ambulance to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital emergency room, where he remains in stable condition. The press release said Koehrsen fled the scene, but was found a few blocks away and arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.
McCaffrey said one of the reasons for the relatively small number of violent altercations was the decision on the part of bars and clubs to increase staff and cooperate with the police.
“The club staffs helped to keep people in organized lines, manage people on the sidewalk and to keep people out of the street,” McCaffrey said. “Without their help, we would not have had effective crowd control.”
Overall, McCaffrey said, the weekend was largely peaceful and well-managed.
“The three-day weekend affair seemed to dilute the events somewhat, and by Sunday, it seemed like people got a lot of partying done earlier in the weekend,” he said.
Zack Self, a daytime manager at the downtown club Q’s, said the club avoided serious incidents.
“We didn’t really have any major problems – there were a couple little scuffles, but nothing out of the ordinary,” Self said. “We kicked out an average amount of people. We identified people who had too much to drink and removed them before any major problems could happen.”
Aron Ashland, general manager of Sharkeez, a local bar, said his business also saw few serious incidents.
“The people and kids walking around looking for fights are the problem,” Ashland said. “People who start problems by bumping into people aren’t going to the bars; they usually get drunk elsewhere and come looking for fights. Usually, the people dressed up at the bars don’t start problems. If you drive 200 miles to get here, you come to hook up, drink and have a good time – not to get in fights and get arrested.”
Sandbar staff member John Maxwell said the bar had no problems over the weekend.
“This year, Halloween was bigger than last year because the weather was nice,” Maxwell said. “We had a lot of new and different faces compared with the normal familiar faces … This weekend was busier than the start of the school year, and I think one of the biggest reasons was that Halloween fell on the weekend, with people coming from out of town and staying for longer than just one night or day.”
Though the increase in crowds was dramatic this weekend, Self said it was comparable to other celebrations in Santa Barbara.
“It was busier on Saturday than normal,” Self said. “But, compared with Fiesta, where all three weekend nights have huge lines that can be several hours long, this weekend, the line on Saturday was only 20 to 30 minutes long.”