New York kicked off its annual SantaCon pub crawl Saturday with a brief lecture by a prominent civil rights lawyer on the costumed participants' First Amendment rights.
Lawyer Norman Siegel told attendees that the government cannot ban SantaCon, but it can reasonably regulate the event.
SantaCon organizers retained Siegel last week as part of an effort to tame the excesses of the daylong party. Attendees started spreading out among midtown Manhattan bars soon after he spoke.
New Yorkers have complained in past years about drunken Santas vomiting in the streets. But organizers stressed that last year's SantaCon raised $60,000 for charity, mostly through partnerships with participating bars.
Organizers urged participants to only go to the establishments designated as part of this year's bar crawl. They also asked participants not to linger in the streets when moving between bars.
"If a venue isn't on this list it's because they don't want you there," organizers said on the event's website. "Please move around throughout the day from venue to venue but spend most of your time inside, not on the streets."
This year's festivities coincided with a planned protest over killings by police. SantaCon organizers have expressed respect for the demonstration.
SantaCon, which draws thousands of revelers each year.