NEWS NO DRINKING ON PANAMA CITY BEACH

You can now drink on beach again.

News Panama city beach, Florida

Panama City Beach urges court not to delay new Spring Break rules

Attorneys for Panama City Beach have asked a judge to throw out pro-Spring Break businesses’ request to halt recently passed laws by arguing their merits as a means to promote public safety.

By ZACK McDONALD
News Herald Reporter Posted Jan. 17, 2016 at 7:00 PM
Updated Jan 19, 2016 at 5:12 PM PANAMA CITY — Attorneys for Panama City Beach have asked a judge to throw out pro-Spring Break businesses’ request to halt recently passed laws by arguing their merits as a means to promote public safety. The motion comes days before a hearing in which each side can argue their case for or against halting the laws until the lawsuit can go before a jury. The lawsuit — filed on behalf of Club La Vela, Harpoon Harry’s and Spinnaker Beach Club — claims “racial animas” motivated city officials to adopt recent Spring Break laws that would allegedly violate constitutional rights and federal commerce laws. The pro-Spring Break businesses have asked for an injunction on those laws. However, the Beach’s attorneys have argued the laws were passed to promote public safety during a month when the city’s resources are perilously stretched to the brink of disaster. “Although tremendously beneficial for the city and its citizens, the annual ‘anything-goes’ Spring Break college party creates a number of serious challenges to good order and public safety,” the motion against the injunction stated. “One of the many challenges facing the city during Spring Break is that the throng of uninhibited partiers draws with it a less desirable crowd of criminals who come to prey upon and take advantage of the thousands of young kids who are away from home and not thinking about safety or the consequences for their actions.”

The Spring Break laws at issue would prohibit alcohol consumption on the beach, cut off alcohol sales and consumption at 2 a.m. in bars and restrict parking on Front Beach Road after dark. It also would require an ID while drinking alcohol on the beach outside the month of March.

The city’s motion makes its case that the mass consumption of alcohol during March is the cause for many of the excessive demands on first responders.

The figures cite calls for police increased about 135 percent in March 2014, while arrests increased 264 percent compared to the rest of the year. Similarly, while the fire department averaged 342.5 total calls and 218.6 “medical assist” calls for all months other than March in 2015, the department responded to 777 total calls and 553 “medical assist” calls in March alone.

The city claims the strain on resources is directly connected to “the uncontrolled and excessive consumption of alcohol, which is itself connected to the rampant problem of underage drinking.” They call the unregulated sale of alcohol at convenience stores to be consumed on the beach a “virtual free-for-all.”

“During Spring Break, it is common to see a steady stream of spring breakers hauling beer from these stores in suitcases and coolers over to the beach where it will be passed out freely and consumed with reckless abandon,” the motion states. “Unlike restaurants, bars and clubs, there is no real control over who drinks — or how much.” The motion also defends itself against claims that the terms “predators,” “bad kids,” “thugs” and “hundred milers” used to refer to Spring Break lawbreakers were not racial code words. “They’re people who come to the city to do bad things and it doesn’t matter what race or color they are,” the motion states. However, the pro-Spring Break businesses have disputed claims that the laws were intended to promote public safety. They claimed the laws would also inadvertently diminish their constitutionally protected speech rights and violate interstate commerce laws. The next court date for the lawsuit is Wednesday, when attorneys are scheduled to argue a motion to dismiss portions of the lawsuit and the preliminary injunction.

Posted in News