You've heard it before: San Francisco "empties out" the week of Burning Man, leaving trendy bars and restaurants less crowded and that hot brunch spot free of lines. However, as the Chronicle points out, the talk of Burning Man Rapture is mostly just that. Talk.
The proof, as the paper sees it, is in the numbers. The annual festival in Black Rock City is currently capped at 70,000 attendees by the Bureau of Land Management. And while that sounds like a lot (heck, it is a lot), those people come from all over the world — not just San Francisco. According to the 2015 Burning Man survey of attendees (they call it a census, but it isn't), roughly 39 percent of burners came from California. So, even if 100 percent of those Californians hailed from SF — which they clearly didn't — we're talking about a total of just over 27,000 people.
The US Census Bureau estimates that San Francisco's population last summer was 864,816. In other words, at most the population declines by roughly 3 percent during the Burn. And, again, as not all California burners originate from SF, that number is likely much lower.
A three percent decline in population, though, can be noticeable, and the last decade and a half of talk about the Great Exodus has to be rooted in some perceived fact though it should be noted that Burning Man was capped at 25,000 people back in 2000.
“If there is any attrition for our regular diners, that’s filled up by tourists, which is wonderful,” says Elizabeth DePalmer to the Chron, speaking of the notoriously popular State Bird Provisions. Other restaurant owners agreed, and noted that while clientele might change, the number of diners typically remains constant during the festival week. (The Chronicle neglects to recognize, though, that a hot reservation remains a hot reservation, it's just that this week there are generally a few more of them readily available.)
So, in summation, your brunch line may be shorter this weekend, but it probably won't be that much shorter.