Burning Man Leaves (Some) Room at the Table

Central Kitchen Photo by Laura Wenus

Central Kitchen Photo by Laura Wenus

The so-called “Burning Man exodus”  that occurs every year when some 70,000 people gather in the Nevada desert has meant more tourists and families at the Mission’s best tables, and fewer young and hungry San Francisco residents, according to managers of the restaurants.

“There was a little bit of a slight decrease last weekend because people were out of town,” said Kate Scanlon, the manager at the Italian restaurant Locanda on Valencia Street. “But most of our clients are still here.”

Valerie Ramirez of the Pizzeria Delfina on 18th Street, added:  “There’s been a decrease in our normal clientele, definitely more families.”

For places like the pizza and pasta restaurant Flour + Water, an Italian restaurant where it is normally hard to get a table on any given night, the types of people who come through the doors have also changed since the festival started last week on August 25.

“It’s less of a decrease in business and more of a change in the type of people who come in, more people from out of town than our regular San Franciscans,” said Bryn Barone, the manager at Flour and Water. “For us, we’re lucky to always be busy.”

However, Central Kitchen on 20th and Alabama Streets saw no difference in the amount or type of people who came to the restaurant last week.

“We’re steady,” said Andrew Record, the manager at Central Kitchen. “We’ve had a nice busy week, everyone who’s not out of town and still in the neighborhood. We’re seeing all of our regulars.”

Yet at Clothes Contact, the vintage clothing shop on Valencia Street which usually has a rack dedicated specifically for “Burning Man Outfits,” there were far fewer customers this week compared to the week before. Its store was nearly empty on Sunday in San Francisco as festival goers in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada were packing up to head home at the end of the week-long art and music event.

“The weekend right before Burning Man was really busy. But the day of Burning Man, things were slow,” said Sandy Morris, who works at Clothes Contact. “There were 150 to 200 more people… who came and bought boy scout shirts, capes, long dresses, and goggles for the desert sand.”

For Mission resident José Gutierrez, the Burning Man migration hasn’t left San Francisco feeling any emptier. On a hot Sunday afternoon, he gazed down at the swelling crowd at Dolores Park during the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s final show. Hundreds of people there also enjoyed the end of the long holiday weekend with Labor Day barbecues.

“It might be a small difference in the people that are here, but because of Labor Day and because there was a performance, there are still about as many people here as usual,” said Jose Gutierrez, who moved to the Mission District two years ago from San Diego. “You could do the math. With the percentage of Mission residents, it’s something like 0.1 percent less, because Burning Man is so expensive and most people can’t afford to take a week off from work to go to a concert like that.”

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