Businesses See Drop in Traffic During Burning Man Exodus

DoloresDolores Park, a popular hang out spot for city dwellers, appeared empty early Saturday Afternoon. Many locals attribute this to the Burning Man exodus the city experiences every year during the last week of August.

It’s long been held in San Francisco that during the Burning Man art festival residents can enjoy their favorite bars and restaurants free of crowds.

The week-long cultural campout ending Monday, Sept. 3, in Black Rock City, Nev., has always drawn its share of San Franciscans, a city that embraces the bohemians, hipsters and techies who make up its audience. Indeed, for its first five years, from 1986 to 1991, Burning Man was held at the city’s Baker Beach. Its move to the desert venue has prompted a yearly exodus that empties some of the city’s hot spots.

That held true this year for some restaurants that typically have long lines and waiting lists, while others restaurants were unscathed.

Puerto Alegre, a Mexican restaurant on Valencia Street, usually has a wait time of 20 minutes but had some open tables on Saturday afternoon.

Business has been down by about one-third since Burning Man started on Aug. 27., said Lorenzo Vigil, a manager at the restaurant.

The fact that the festival coincided with Labor Day also hurt business, as many more residents took advantage of the three-day weekend to get out of town, Vigil said.

Down the street, Café Luna, a popular brunch spot, lost some business during the week.

“It’s slower than I’ve seen before,” said Lucy Boris, a hostess.

For establishments with a more varied customer base, it was business as usual.

The Burning Man exodus wasn’t affecting Four Barrel café on Saturday afternoon, when there was a line out the door.

At Rainbow Grocery, a pit stop for many Burners stocking up on supplies, the aisles were bustling with customers. Marcus Trugueros, a member of the food cooperative, said business was good during August as people prepared to travel.

“We appreciate the business of the community that visits us during Burning Man,” he said.

Some regular Burning Man attendees who stayed behind this year said they missed the annual gathering, which culminates with the torching of a giant wooden sculpture.

Ed Holmes, a director and producer for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, is a longtime Burner who has attended the event seven times since 1991. Holmes went last year and said he saw many techies who dust-proofed their computers for the desert and created electronic art installations.

“If I wasn’t working here,” he said, “I would be out there now.”




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One Comment

  1. dude

    Nice hypothesis, but probably better explained by the 3-day weekend and lots of people leaving town in general. Maybe compare the numbers to Memorial Day weekend?

    If assume:
    50,000 people at BM. 20% (generous) from SF. That’s 10,000 that leave SF for BM.

    With a census of 800k population, that’s just over 1% of SF going to BM. Not much.

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