Following a week of vague messaging that gained some negative momentum in the press, SF Pride officially announced Tuesday that the 2020 parade and celebration in late June is canceled and will not be postponed to the fall, due to pandemic concerns.
A source close to the deliberations told SFist last week that part of the delay and debate stemmed from forces within City Hall who were pushing for a postponement, in order to avoid the loss of hotel tax revenue to the city that a cancellation would represent. But it seems that gaming out such a postponement — which the organizers of Coachella and BottleRock are doing, crossing their fingers that large gatherings will be permissible and advisable by October — was not deemed wise or financially feasible in the case of Pride.
The decision was made "with heavy hearts," says SF Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez, in a statement. "Since the coronavirus first emerged, we have held out hope that the situation would shift and we would be able to gather later this year," Lopez says. "Well before the first shelter-in-place order, our team began to balance our excitement for Pride 50 and evaluate possible alternatives."
Lopez adds that they were listening to many voices through this process. "Our staff has been in frequent talks with our board, our production team, our partners at many departments of City Hall, officials at other Pride organizations worldwide — and most of all, our LGBTQ communities. We have heard from people who urged us to cancel, and from those who implored us not to."
But, he says that, ultimately, talking about a postponement made little logistical or fiscal sense. "In some ways the decision to cancel does in fact protect the future of Pride," Lopez tells 48 Hills. "The uncertainty of any type of postponement presented financial challenges. An event of this size moving to fall before being absolutely sure it take place then would have been too much of a risk for everyone involved."
"No one wants to celebrate with the entire community more than I do," said Mayor London Breed in a statement. "However, we are in an unprecedented public health emergency with an uncertain future, and we must do everything we can to protect our entire community and put public health first."
The decision now will have the trickle-down effect of further depressing revenues for all the party promoters, vendors, bars, restaurants, and hotels that depend on LGBTW Pride Week for a mid-year boost. And this was a big one for San Francisco and New York — late June 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first "gay liberation"-slash-Pride events that happened in 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Stonewall.
Pride 50, in essence, is getting moved to Pride 51. But organizers say they will now shift their energies to making virtual celebrations happen to honor the landmark anniversary.
As the Bay Area Reporter reports, a group of party promoters and business leaders penned an open letter to SF Pride pushing for a postponement to October or November
In a statement Tuesday, state Senator Scott Wiener said, "I have no doubt that SF Pride will put together a terrific slate of virtual events for this year’s celebration. Pride is my favorite part of every year, and though it’s disappointing that we can’t be together in person, we will find creative ways to uplift and celebrate the LGBTQ community."
Carolyn Wysinger, president of the SF Pride Board of Directors, said to the Examiner that protecting the health of the community has to be put before any celebration. And she promised, "Flags will still fly in June, if I have to get up there and put them there myself." She added that Pride 2021 will "be even grander now that we are celebrating two Prides."
Meanwhile, New York City Pride also hangs in the balance and will likely also be canceled, but organizers have not made an official announcement there yet — likely for similar reasons and a legion of stakeholders, as there were in SF.
Photo: Matt Biddulph via Flickr