‘Not the Redneck Riviera’
|By Valerie Garman, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The magnitude of change, however, is still unclear.
"I don't know how much difference they will make," said
In addition to earlier closing times for bars, City Manager
Those changes include allowing only one special event on the sandy beach per day, and requiring businesses to provide additional security personnel, fence off the event space and establish a checkpoint for attendees.
"Right now it's just an open beach," Gisbert said of the events as they are handled now. "Right now there's no ticket; there's nothing. This is very important; I can't stress that enough."
Gisbert said staff now is working to define what exactly constitutes an event and at what point the police and fire departments are spread too thin.
The council also plans to require all persons with an alcoholic beverage to carry a valid ID during Spring Break next year, and will impose a ban on digging holes on the beach, which law enforcement says will help curb "illegal activities along with sexual misconduct."
Because Spring Break dates change every year, Gisbert said any Spring Break-specific items would likely be adopted by ordinance before the event and voided by the council afterward, but staff is reviewing options.
Several other approved considerations involve boosting law enforcement and K-9 police dog units during Spring Break, something that still has a big question mark beside it in terms of funding.
However, Gisbert said the city has received donations and verbal commitments from members of the local business community interested in providing funding for law enforcement.
The city already has received a
Gisbert also said he has received verbal commitments from several other beach business owners to round up substantial funds, upward of
"It's very important to them that we maintain a clean image," Gisbert said. "They want to make sure it's a safe Spring Break, because a bad Spring Break doesn't do their image any good or the city's image any good."
Among that group is
"I think the
Paradise Found's properties, which include the
"I'm sure it will affect us to some extent, and I hope it will do so overall in a positive way," Hilton said of the proposed changes. "I'm not sure what benefit it will have, but we're hopeful law enforcement will be able to make it something that could keep out the negative predatory behavior that has created a problem."
Hilton said Spring Break is an essential part of the beach's economy in March, one that many
Commissioner: 'A step backwards'
Residents flooded the
Oberst said the program, which aired on "The Sean Hannity Show" on
"It brought it to the attention of a lot of people," Oberst said. "That was a terrible picture to show of the beach. We all agree that's not the image we want to show the world."
Some of the first recommendations for change came from
"The sheriff clearly stated that one of the problems he has on the sand is underage drinking and the big groups of people," Thomas said. "I was hoping this was something the city and county could work together on, but the
"I think it's crazy for us not to give them what they ask for," said Thomas, noting different county and city rules would make enforcement too difficult. "We've got to act together on this, and I just think that was a step backwards."
"I think the council made a big mistake," said Strange, who recently was re-elected in a grassroots campaign that overcame her opponent's well-financed challenge. "I think it's a safety issue. I think that we're one beer bottle away from a riot and when it happens I'm going to know I voted correctly and they didn't."
'Missed the boat'
The council also threw out a proposal from
"I really think the answer for Spring Break is no alcohol on the beach; I think we really missed the boat," Strange said. "I just feel strongly that we need to make some decisions to bring the beach back like it was intended to be ... not the Redneck Riviera."
"I don't think the
Sellers, who expressed concern about declining property values, said he hopes to see more enforcement of the laws on the books next year, particularly those pertaining to underage drinking, public indecency and loitering.
"I am no constitutional lawyer, but it seems like my civil rights are being violated," Sellers said. "We as property owners are not being protected."
SPRING BREAK VIDEOS
PHOTO GALLERY WEEK 4
PHOTO GALLERY WEEK 3
PHOTO GALLERY WEEK 2
PHOTO GALLERY WEEK 1
UPDATED LIST OF PROPOSALS
Following is the list of proposals the
1) Provide additional law enforcement and emergency medical services support during spring break; coordinate with
2) Provide additional K-9 units
3) Allow no alcoholic beverages on the beaches (sand) or parking lots, during college Spring Break
4) Restrict any type of cooler, regardless of size or shape, on the white sandy portion of our beach during College Spring Break. This would still allow our residents and guests to consume a single alcoholic beverage on the beach, but would eliminate the large parties with coolers which usually contribute to the underage drinkers.
5) Any person who is in possession of an alcoholic beverage must have a valid state issued picture identification card/license on their person.
6) Require all bars, nightclubs, restaurants or any other establishment that serves or sells alcoholic beverages to stop the sale of said item at 2:00 A.M -- 365 days a year.
7) During college Spring Break, require all bars, clubs, and other establishments located on
8) Aggressively enforce capacity limits and fire safety ordinances during Spring Break at condos, hotels and clubs.
9) Use TDC advertising money currently spent on college Spring Break to advertise what you can't do here and all new laws and ordinances.
10) Close all City-owned parking lots at
11)Beach Side night curfew
12) Allow only one Special Event on the sandy portion of the beach per day.
13) Require additional support staff 3-officers per 1,000-guest to the special events permit
14) To require the Event organizer to fence off the event area and to take responsibility of their property including check point. This has worked on the beach in the past.
15) Prohibit the digging of any holes on the sandy portion of the beach. This is not only a safety issue for emergency personnel, but for people just walking on the beach. Some of these holes are large enough to hold eight to ten people and illegal activities along with sexual misconduct do occur within them. Require street side and beach side restrooms in areas with large concentrations of visitors
16) Require street side and beach side restrooms in areas with large concentrations of visitors
17) Strengthen Scooter regulations, insurance, monitoring and enforcement
18) Work with property owners in order to better manage beach areas and activities
19) Work with property owners in order to better manage guest on property and in rooms
20) We must continue to meet with members of our community once a week during Spring Break and regularly throughout the year, searching for new ideas.
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