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No Beer for This Year's Mercado

With strict time restrictions placed by the sheriff's department, the Fiesta Association decides to forgo the suds.

The organization responsible for all the festivities celebrating the return of the swallows announced Wednesday night that it will not be serving beer at the Mercado this year.

Beer has been an annual feature at the marketplace, which attracts people far and wide, opening right after the Swallows Day Parade ends. This year’s Swallows Day Parade and Mercado are scheduled for March 23.

  • Take our POLLS! Tell us what you think of the beer ban.

While the Fiesta Association’s website still announces a beer garden, the board said Wednesday at the group’s weekly meeting that beer will not be served this year, said Eric Bergstrom, Patch advertising manager who attended the meeting.

According to Bergstrom, Lt. John Meyer, chief of police services in San Juan Capistrano, had informed the Fiesta Association that alcohol could only be served between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to keep rowdiness to a minimum.

Last year, eight people were arrested on the suspicion of public drunkeness. In addition, a restaurant was vandalized when a man broke a window at Ciao Pasta.

All this despite a larger police presence. Meyer told Patch last year: “It seemed a lot of people [in the past] were inebriated.” 

Meyer told Patch Wednesday evening that he had previously met with Fiesta members to discuss the problem. Between the day's two events, as many as 40,000 people converge on San Juan Capistrano at any one time.

"With a crowd that large and when you serve a lot of alcohol, you have the potential for a lot of problems," Meyer said.

"I am very happy the Fiesta Association went along with me," he added, saying he thinks the absence of beer will make the after-parade festivities more family-friendly.

Bergstrom, who regularly serves as the emcee for the Fiesta’s annual pet parade, said beer sales constitute most of the Association’s fundraising efforts. It costs about $10,000 to sell the suds, but it brings in $18,000 in net proceeds.

Meyer said association members told him that to make the revenue they need, they need to sell beer for at least four hours.

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Steve Behmerwohld January 31, 2013 at 06:18 AM
I am a Fiesta member and I think that the Fiesta Association, the Swallows Parade and the City will do just fine without beer at the Mercado. Last year, I poured beer at the Mercado for the final 3 hours and I agree with Lt. Meyer, that making things more "Family Friendly" will be better for everyone.
Buck January 31, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Screw family friendly, keep events as they are, quit taking away all the fun elements of Swallows Day. The amount of arrests compared to the amount of people attending is minimal. Slowly, slowly, slowly, you are eroding away all that is San Juan.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 31, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Maybe you'll attract the same numbers, but just a different crowd? I definitely notice that after the parade, one crowd leaves while another comes just for the Mercado.
KDBMMM January 31, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Absolutely! In the 25 years I have lived here I have seen a change in growing numbers of rowdies endangering the safe and fun historic family event vibe. Those that just want an excuse to party in excess can find another venue. Good call!
Dusty W Otero January 31, 2013 at 05:17 PM
I agree with u Stevo..there will be plenty of other watering holes,,for the booze hounds...
MIKE MCDOWELL January 31, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Well San Juan fiesta association has finally come to an end they just don't know it.The new blood in the new politically correct association have ruined a good thing and it only took them 2 years to do it.The original members are splnning in their graves Walt Portner Dick Begged Foulton Shaw Mac McDowell and the others who worked over the years to make the Swallows parade a community event where growing a beard (Smooth Puss) buttons was a great fundraiser but that was killed last year and now no beer at the maracado. As a past. Ember and 2 time parade chairmaan. I'm glad I'm no longer involved.Another thing that the Politically Correct have ruined. Mike McDowell
Matt Gaffney January 31, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Swallows Day without Beer? Pathetic.
Clint Worthington January 31, 2013 at 05:48 PM
You also left out Hoos'gow day and the elimination of shooting of guns. A tradition for many, many years. Eight people arrested and a single broken window out of 40,000 people ! That does not seem like a huge problem to me considering the number of people and the advertising and revenue that it generates for the city. I am sure in the average day of San Juan, our city experiences much more than just a broken window. By the way, the number of people arrested compared to the number of people attending is only 0.0002%. Not a high number of people arrested.
Kelley January 31, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Out of the thousands of people who attend the Swallows Day Parade and festivities every year, to have only 8 arrests really is not that much. I too am sick of everything conforming to be so politically correct! There will soon be no more tradition left anywhere! It's very sad. That being said, if they want a more "family friendly" area, then they can keep the games and shopping booths separate from the food and drink areas. It's not all that difficult to make it a "family friendly" and a fun occasion for all who attend.
Clint Worthington January 31, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Next thing you know, they will say you cannot be in the parade if you are in a motorized wheelchair. Oh wait, they already did that. I am sure if that participant had a choice, he would have rather been walking in the parade. Shame on the Fiesta Association.
Coach V January 31, 2013 at 05:56 PM
For whatever it's worth. It is not as simple as taking away all the fun elements of Swallows Day. Drinking was not intentened as making this event a good one or bad. It's simply that getting intoxicated, in front of children and senior citizens, "just isn't right". Just MO.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 31, 2013 at 06:03 PM
For those of you a little more shy about voicing your opinion, take our polls and let us know what you're thinking about this beer ban at Mercado http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/polls-the-beer-ban-at-mercado (even if you have expressed an opinion, all are welcome)
Eric Bergstrom January 31, 2013 at 06:14 PM
@Matt, There will still be beer...and tequila...and wine...and whatever you like to drink, you'll just do so at Sarducci's, Swallows, Vitos, The Vintage Steakhouse, El Adobe, Ruby's, Rick's Cafe, Sundried Tomato, Ciao Pasta, L'Hirondelle, 5 Vines and so on. It will be good for the local businesses who have professional bartenders serving the crowds and you'll probably get your drinks quicker. What we need to worry about is how to make up the shortfall for the Fiesta Association so they can afford to keep putting on the parade. To be honest, it has been getting a little embarrassing to see the debauchery that grows as the day goes forward. I've attended a Restaurant Association meeting where the owners and managers were trading Swallow's Day horror stories of destruction and other disgusting behavior taking place on that day. The parade will go on and all will be well with San Juan.
rachel o January 31, 2013 at 06:33 PM
What is embarrassing is when our own Mayor is beat up 45 days ago and no arrests have been made. With that in mind, I can certainly see why Lt. John Meyer would find eight arrests out of forty thousand people overwhelming!
Erica Cox January 31, 2013 at 08:00 PM
Lived here over 25 years, since I was a kid, and I was not happy with the growing rowdy and drunk crowds the last few years. This is supposed to be a hometown parade with a family-friendly mercado and social event. We finally stopped going, it was embarrassing and not a good place for kids anymore. I think moving the alcohol back to the local businesses is great. I hope people can take an honest look at how the Swallow's Day events were turning into a booze-busting and unsavory event. Our family enjoyed a nice beer in the afternoon too, but it was really starting to get out of hand. The focus should be the parade, not the booze.
Dusty W Otero February 01, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Now maybe I will join the Feasta association ..I don't like meeting at the Swallows Bar,,,lets clean it up and get modern.you have plenty of beer being sold in the bars and all around ...and hard stuff and wine..I go the Vietnamese Tet Parade in Little Saigon Garden Grove ,,next few weeks ..no booze and lots of fun,,food,,and History kids all over...flowers ,,Booths..Good Idea no beer sold in Swallows day Parade..
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 07, 2013 at 03:18 AM
Hi Dotti, I had to remove your post because of the use of cussing. Sorry to be so PC, but them's the rules. Feel free to repost your sentiments, minus the curse words.

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