PCB officials mull alcohol ban extension

Please use the SHARE buttons to forward this news


PANAMA CITY BEACH — Officials have proposed extending the March alcohol ban into late April next year, saying some “rowdy” groups have decided to pack the beach at the end of the ban.

Mayor Mike Thomas said he’s driven around the Beach and noticed more crowds of people who visited toward the beginning of April.

“There was a lot of congregating of groups. I had a lot of families say they felt uncomfortable. As soon as March was over, groups found places to congregate and party. When people see that activity, they wonder if we’re serious about change,” Thomas said.

It’s hard to say how serious other members of the PCB Council are about expanding the ban at this time. Newly-elected Ward 3 representative Geoff McConnell, who has supported the March ban, said he wasn’t comfortable commenting on the subject. Councilman Phil Chester said he hasn’t spoken with anyone about it. And the new Ward 1 Council member, Paul Casto, also said he wasn’t comfortable commenting until he was sworn in.

One of the catalysts for the conversation is an incident when students from a Lousiana school told Panama City Beach officers that students requested schools move their spring break to bypass the alcohol ban. Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman did not know what specific Louisana school the students were talking about, and he said he is in the process of gathering more information to present to the City Council.

Whitman is thinking about proposing an alcohol ban from March 1 through April 21 next year, as Easter falls on that date. Last year, Whitman said, officers witnessed an influx of people at the beginning of April. He said officials spoke with property owners and officials, where they learned more people would be populating the beach. He suggested the ban be extended, but he never officially brought the issue to the City Council.

“We knew there were going to be crowds,” he said. “I didn’t push the issue. We had law enforcement to contain the crowds.”

Police made a few arrests this year, and there certainly were more crowds and traffic in April, Whitman said. In 2015, officials made 2,423 total arrests, and this year the number has dropped to 1,200 since Spring Break rules took effect. He said officials try to make sure there aren’t any fights or disruption along the beach.

Thomas said law enforcement officials did a great job securing the Beach for Spring Break, but the fact remains the city must improve its image. He said officials have to change the Beach’s culture, as raucous groups visit, and he wants to make everyone aware of his recommendations.

The alcohol ban came into play — along with several other Spring Break rules — after officials saw the city go through a turbulent Spring Break season that included shootings and an a sexual assault in 2015.

Thomas said he plans on speaking with the council this week about the suggestion to expand the law. As of Monday, he said he has only spoken with the city manager and police chief about the issue.

Be the first to comment on "PCB officials mull alcohol ban extension"

Leave a comment