A sea of santas getting into the spirit during a past Santa Crawl. PHOTO: LYNNE MOWBRAY
A sea of santas getting into the spirit during a past Santa Crawl. PHOTO: LYNNE MOWBRAY

Police shut down this year's Grafton Santa Crawl

COFFS Clarence Police have put a stop to one of Grafton's biggest Christmas charity events.

Organisers of the Grafton Santa Crawl, which last year attracted a crowd of about 2000 revellers, say local police have refused to sanction the event.

The Santa Crawl has become a pre-Christmas tradition of people dressing in Santa Claus outfits drinking in local hotels and finishing up at the Grafton racecourse.

A founder of the event, Angus McKimm, said the event was on track to crack $100,000 raised for its charity of choice, the St Vincent de Paul Society, during Santa Crawls over the past 10 years.

Mr McKimm said police told a meeting of stakeholders a few days ago they would not sanction this year's event.

"There was a meeting the other day of stakeholders: the local publicans, the Office of Liquor and Gaming, the police and the Santa Crawl committee," Mr McKimm said.

"We rocked up thinking they would tell us there were going to be more restrictions like restricting us to two drinks per person and to stop drinking by 10pm.

"Instead they just basically told us it was going to stop."

OPINION: Hope for resolution to keep Santa Crawl tradition

He said police did not want a multi-venue event and something where people were drinking all day.

"They didn't even like the name of the event. They didn't want us using the word crawl to describe it," Mr McKimm said.

He said the police were going to be the only winners out of this.

"The local publicans are going to be the big losers here," he said. "I know Bill Dougherty, Mark Knott and Gordon Masters were not happy."

"Santa Crawl was a big money spinner for them with not much trouble. All the people that came to the pubs were there at the start of the event.

"We're going to lose a fun day, but St Vinnies is also going to miss out on a $10,000 to $12,000 donation."

Mr McKimm said over the past decade there had been the occasional unsavoury incident during the event, but organisers had worked with police and publicans to sort these out.

"Each year there were more and more restrictions on what people could do," he said.

"Last year people had stopped drinking by 11pm."

Mr McKimm wondered why Grafton had to miss out on the fun of Santa Crawl, when other cities managed to hold similar events successfully.

"I worry that 1500 to 2000 people can't dress up like Santa and celebrate on the last Saturday before Christmas," he said.

"What worries me is that it will go back to what it was when we first started out, an unregulated, unorganised pub crawl which doesn't end up donating $10-$12,000 to charity."

Coffs Clarence Police Area Commander, Superintendent Mark Holohan, said it would have been ludicrous for police to back the event.

"We are not going to condone any event that encourages over consumption of alcohol and more importantly, binge drinking," Mr Holohan said.

"Large amounts of our resources are tied up policing alcohol-related violence and alcohol related crime.

"It would be ludicrous to expect us to support an event where alcohol is excessively consumed."

However Supt Holohan said the door was not shut on the event organisers.

"If they can come to us and show us a plan of how they can run the event without police intervention, we would be prepared to support it," he said.

Supt Holohan said St Vincent de Paul need not lose out due to the cancellation of Santa Crawl.

"I encourage anyone who was going to take part in Santa Crawl to make an individual donation to the charity," he said.

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