One Union Square businesses’ loss is another’s gain, apparently — after Chronicle reports that a man who’d served as Santa at the Union Square Macy’s for the last 20 years was fired for telling a suggestive joke to an adult couple, a neighboring business is stepping up with offers of an opportunity to play Santa there, and for more pay.

According to ABC7, John Toomey, AKA “Santa John,” was fired Friday night for telling an adult couple who apparently sat on his lap a naughty joke he says he’s used for years when adults visit.

“‘They sat on my lap and I said, ‘Have you been good this year?’ And they said, ‘Oh, yes.’ And I said, ‘Oh, well that’s too bad.’ Then I said, ‘You know why Santa’s so happy and jolly all the time don’t you?’ And they said, ‘No, we don’t know.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s because Santa knows where all the naughty boys and girls live,'” Toomey told ABC.

The couple, Toomey said, complained, and Toomey was subsequently fired. Macy’s, for their part, refuses to comment on what is essentially, they say, a personell issue.

Toomey emphasizes to the media outlets he’s spoken to that he reserves the grownup jokes for the grownups, telling the Chron that kids “get only his trademark laugh and questions about what toys they want.”

But all is not lost for Santa — according to Press Agent Lee Houskeeper, Union Square restaurant and lounge Lefty O’Doul’s owner Nick Bovis is already pursuing Toomey, saying that “Lefty’s will pay him more (than Macy’s) and build a special set.”

Houskeeper seems to expect that this story will just get bigger, saying that “a national PR guy got hold of (Toomey) last night promising network attention” and that “the Chronicle* is planning a front page follow up” on the firing.

No word yet on if Toomey will take Lefty’s up on their offer, but, as he’s said that he’s “looking into hiring himself out at parties and other stores,” things are certainly looking promising for the sports bar.

In an email to the Appeal this morning, Houskeeper says that Bovis is still trying to track Toomey down, and “is offering double what Macy’s paid and will put him up at the Handerly next door” to the restaurant.

* The latter assertion, one hopes, will put to rest allegations made by some that the Chronicle is reluctant to write critically about Macy’s, as it is one of the newspaper’s largest advertisers. For example, at a recent panel discussion at SF Zinefest, the SF Public Press‘ Michael Stoll made this assertion. In my time at the paper, however, I saw no evidence of to back up this claim, and must admit that I interrupted Stoll to say as much.

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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