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Santas Swarm Midtown For Annual SantaCon Pub Crawl

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hundreds of so-called Santas have made their way to Midtown Manhattan Saturday for the annual SantaCon pub crawl.

But as CBS2's Ilana Gold reported, some have serious reservations about what could happen based on previous years.

Christmas-clad participants began downing drinks at dozens of bars across Midtown around 10 a.m.

"It's a fun way to celebrate the holiday, and get drunk," said tourist Kari Sass.

Photos: SantaCon Pub Crawl Invades Midtown

If you're heading into the city for SantaCon from Long Island, pre-partying on Long Island Rail Road trains won't be an option.

Signs at Penn Station make it more than clear there's no booze allowed, Gold reported. It's a move the LIRR has made based on problems in the past.

"They act very crazy, ridiculous. They drink, they get drunk, they behave terribly," said security guard Desmond Bentinck.

Santas Swarm Midtown For Annual SantaCon Pub Crawl

And the event doesn't always bring holiday cheer to Manhattan. Too much alcohol has led to fights and a lot of complaints about crude and lewd behavior.

"I know they have the right to go where they want to go, but if it's disturbing other people they're stepping over the line," said Midtown resident Myra Crespo.

So this year, organizers are letting all the Santas know there's no excuse for inappropriate behavior, and they're working closely with the bars to limit any possible disruptions.

Santas Swarm Midtown For Annual SantaCon Pub Crawl

By mid-afternoon, hundreds of Santas made their way to Slake on West 30th Street, 1010 WINS' Roger Stern reported.

"I came out to get drunk," said Michael.

"I just think it's fun that everyone comes together and does the same thing at the same place," said another reveler.

The Blarney Rock, near Madison Square Garden, is one of this year's stops.

"It's like a red St. Patrick's Day for the bars around here, so it's good. It's getting better," said Michael Higgins, with The Blarney Rock Pub.

And as these businesses cash in, people in the area just hope the partying is respectful and within reason, Gold reported.

"I think it's a fun thing if everyone just stays within their drinking limits!" said Midtown resident John Wax.

As WCBS 880's Monica Miller reported, concerns were also raised in light of the protests in Manhattan over the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.

"The protesters really helping to define the future of the city. We didn't want to take away from any of that," said civil rights attorney Normal Siegel, who is representing SantaCon. "And these folks here have First Amendment rights. They also have First Amendment responsibilities."

WCBS 880 spoke with Siegel Saturday evening, and the attorney said he didn't see any negative activity.

"What I saw is thousands of people, mainly young people, having a terrific afternoon, being in the holiday, festive mood," he said.

Some communities have declared SantaCon-free zones in their neighborhoods, but Siegel said it won't hold up.

"I don't think they ever could have stopped SantaCon from happening, because in New York, you have the right under the First Amendment to be on public sidewalks, to be in public spaces, to go to private venues," he said.

SantaCon Freeze Zone
SantaCon Freeze Zone (Credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

"If people in the communities 'want to ban them,' this is America. You can't ban people from walking on the public streets and being in public spaces," Siegel said.

But still, some didn't see it that way.

"Santa should never be drunk, that's a bad image for kids to see drunk Santa," one critic told CBS2's Steve Langford.

For it's part, SantaCon raises tens of thousands of dollars for charity in throwing the event. The money is distributed to Toys for Tots and Food Bank for New York City.

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