Holiday Spirits: Newport Beach Santa Pub Crawl Raises Money for Charity

Photo credit: Emily J. Davis

San Clemente resident Chris Pope is founder of the Newport Beach Santa Pub Crawl, now in its 14th year.

Tell us about the event.
It’s basically what it sounds like: People dress up as Santa Claus and go barhopping. We sell wristbands (starting at $10) that allow participants to get discounts at Newport Pier bars such as Woody’s and Stag Bar. It’s the only local holiday pub crawl that’s totally volunteer-organized and has 100 percent of the profits going to charity.

Which charity do you support?
We have worked with (Orange-based) Project Access for a number of years, and we are excited to partner with them again this year. It was important to choose a local organization. For me, the focus of the event is helping them help low-income families get back on their feet through various programs.

How did the idea for this come about?
I grew up in Newport Beach, and I went to college at UC Berkeley. One year in San Francisco, a friend of mine thought it would be fun to dress as Santas and go to a bar. Then I moved back to O.C. the following year, and I got 20 friends together and we went to Malarky’s all dressed up and had an amazing time. So I thought we should do this every year. By the third year, we were raising money and we’ve donated more than $75,000 to date.

How many participants do you expect?
Probably around 750. And what’s amazing is the atmosphere of the event is so different from other pub crawls. Everyone is dressed up—some are even elves, snowmen—and it’s a very positive, festive atmosphere. It’s a win-win: for the bars, the city, the participants, and most important for Project Access.

Check it out!
Dec. 14.

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