Economic Costs of Burning Man in SF

Fortune magazine has shared some data from local San Francisco merchants who use Square. It looks like Burning Man had a substantial negative impact on businesses in SOMA, the Mission, the Marina, Noe Valley, Haight Ashbury, and even The Tenderloin. The absence of Burners was good for business in Pac Heights, Richmond and the Outer Sunset.

From Fortune:

The annual desert celebration is an economic force, but that means something’s got to give elsewhere—namely, San Francisco…

Big events such as concerts, football games, and festivals typically bring a surge of economic activity around their venues. Burning Man, the annual art-nature-tech celebration that drew some 70,000 people to northern Nevada last month, is no different. How big is that impact? According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the festival last year brought $55 million to the local economy.

That surge in spending came at the expense of some other place, of course. “Burners” hail from all over the country and world, but San Francisco, where the festival was born, is home to the largest concentration. The city is famously empty during that week, and the pilgrimage to the “playa” affects some neighborhoods disproportionately.

Data from Square, the mobile credit card processing company, suggests merchants in the South of Market neighborhood saw as much as a 20% drop in business the week of Burning Man compared to a typical week. The Mission, Noe Valley, Castro, Haight Ashbury, and Cole Valley all saw drops of between 9% and 11%. Potrero Hill was not far behind, with a 7.8% drop. Bucking the trend, commerce was up sharply in the Richmond, a neighborhood popular with families, perhaps due to increased shopping during a the Labor Day weekend.

What do all the neighborhoods that saw drops have in common? They’re on the south side of the city and are home to the majority of tech workers in the Bay Area. No surprise there. Now if someone could only measure the drop in tech productivity that week. Lines of code not written? Deadlines blown?

9 comments on “Economic Costs of Burning Man in SF

  1. San Francisco booted BM out in the early years… oops. It’s interesting that Rubble Park, adjacent to Candlestick Park refused a permit to hold BM back in the late eighties when it was a one day summer solstice event. Wonder if it might be a possibility to do it there now that the stadium’s days are over. There was an official BM fire festival held in the Candlestick parking lot a few years back.

  2. Good news. Plan a trip to SF for the NV Burn and most of the superficial jerks and hipsters are out of town, drawn to the flypaper.

    Hold on here. Maybe start a SF destination event to take advantage. Charge top prices and include food, accommodations, and a tour. And to draw in more suckers… I mean customers, I’ll make it a non-profit, and tell them part of the money goes to help the artists that we don’t see. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

  3. There’s no way this report is complete without also showing how much burners spend in these neighborhoods in preparation for the event. The spending does not “stop” it is just done ahead time instead. I agree with Tony about Walmart. I won’t spend one red cent there, but I bet they make a fortune on other burners.

  4. The Castro, sure. But Noe Valley? Oh times have changed. I lived in Noe Valley from 1994 to 2000, and the Burner population there then was about zero.

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