The Town of Chapel Hill will no longer dress as a welcome mat for Halloween.

The Town Council Monday night agreed that the annual celebration, which last year attracted 80,000 people, needs to be scaled down, albeit over several years, to 20,000 to 25,000. In addition to the thousands of UNC-CH and town residents who attend, college students from all over North Carolina and the Southeast converge on Chapel Hill, often via charter buses.

Last year, 13 people were arrested; eight were taken to UNC Hospitals.

“It’s too large and poses a significant risk to public safety,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran told Council. “It needs to be downsized to a more manageable environment to reclaim it to what it once was.”

The tradition began more than 20 years ago as a family event in the 100 block of East Franklin Street. As word spread, out-of-town revelers began attending, and the party is now nearly a mile long.

Last year, the town spent more than $220,000 on Halloween, including 400 police officers from more than a half-dozen jurisdictions, firefighters, Chapel Hill bus drivers and public works employees, who had to haul away the garbage left on the streets.

The plan has several elements:

Town and police officials plan to stop Chapel Hill Transit service that evening from the park and ride lots to downtown.

They will also hire additional parking monitors to keep cars out of nearby residential neighborhoods, and limit the number of cars coming in to downtown; Carrboro will also cooperate in restricting traffic that may try to enter from the west. The Town also will conduct a public information campaign, with the help of UNC, to other universities telling students to stay home.

“We’re not trying to end Halloween,” Curran said. “We’re just trying to get our arms around it.”

The most controversial recommendation is the limitation of alcohol sales, perhaps ending as early as 10 p.m. at Franklin Street bars. “It changes the nature of the celebration at about 10 or 100,” said Mayor Kevin Foy.

Adam Klein, vice president of economic development and government relations with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said the group opposes restricting those sales because it unfairly targets downtown businesses. Bars are not where overconsumption happens, Klein said, because on Halloween, many establishments host invitation-only events, charge admission and limit the number of people who can enter. Town Council members agreed that much of the drinking occurs in dorm rooms and off-campus.
Town Council did not vote on banning or limiting alcohol.

There was little public comment on the plan. One citizen, Eugene Farrar, criticized Council for not giving the same consideration to Apple Chill, an annual street fair that drew a largely African American crowd. Council discontinued in 2006 after three people were shot. About 30,000 people attended, and the town spent more than $87,000 in public services for the event.

“I think we do need to take a look at both Halloween and Apple Chill—and bring Apple Chill back,” Farrar said.

With Halloween just a month away, it is unlikely the plan will significantly dent attendance.

“It will take at least two years for a substantial decrease,” said Deputy Town Manager Flo Miller. “Our fame is bigger than we are.”

In the original story, a direct quote was attributed to Adam Klein that should have been paraphrased. The quotes have been removed and additional clarifying information added.