KCBS Radio/Holly Quan

Oakland Cancels 'First Friday' Event Over Safety Concerns

Holly Quan
October 19, 2018 - 1:40 pm

OAKLAND — The organizers of a huge monthly street festival in Oakland have canceled the November installment of the sprawling party because of a shooting that injured five people after the last gathering. 

First Fridays in the Uptown neighborhood feels like one big block party, with dancing , DJ’s, art, and food vendors. With up to 30,000 people converging for the street fair, it's been a boon for bars, restaurants and other businesses. 

But a midnight shooting on October 6, in which two people opened fire at each other injured themselves and three others, led to the postponement of the festival until December. The incident happened three hours after the event had ended and crowds had dispersed, but it was enough to spook the event’s organizers.

Koreatown NorthGate (KONO) Community Benefit District, which produces the monthly event, has been meeting with city officials to review safety protocols, while admitting the November cancellation will hurt businesses.

KONO CBD said it will strengthen enforcement of an open container ban, and conduct a “top-to-bottom review of our policies and procedures,” according to a statement on the event’s website.

Sean Sullivan, owner of The Port Bar on Broadway, next to the Paramount Theater, said he’s disappointed both for his business and his workers.

“They’re pulling the rug right out from under the working class people who staff bars, restaurants and retailers here in downtown before the holiday season,” said Sullivan, who added that workers will miss out on big tips heading into the holidays.

Sullivan said Friday nights are the bar’s busiest, and traffic doubles on First Fridays. “So we always staff up for it,” he said. The bar even switched to plastic cups to keep up with demand.

While acknowledging the organizer’s concerts about safety protocols, he worried the cancellation will send the wrong message and scare people away from coming downtown.

“These were… hardened criminals who came in and committed an atrocious crime, but it was targeted violence,” said Sullivan, adding that the incident is no reason to discourage thousands of people from visiting the bustling area.

Organizers hope to re-start First Fridays, which takes place on Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street, in December.