DESTIN — A new Okaloosa County ordinance has created an uncertain future for businesses on Crab Island, and has convinced owners the local government is trying to shut them down.

Starting Nov. 1 of next year, commercial floating structures won't be allowed at the island between dusk and dawn. Instead, they'll have to be moved to a public or private marina or dock, anchored within a permitted mooring field or taken to private property.

There's just one problem.

None of the approved places are close to Crab Island.

Business owners say the ordinance, approved Tuesday by the Okaloosa County Commission, could destroy their businesses and force them to go elsewhere.

"It's gonna kill my business one way or the other," said Stan Shipp, owner of WaterWorld Destin. "They didn't leave us with many — or any — options at all."

Kevin Brown, owner of ReefBurger, said the ordinance will force him to change his business model and downsize.

During the winter, owners take their barges to places like Pensacola, Navarre and Freeport, but those trips take hours and it isn't realistic to make that trip every night.

"When I go to Pensacola, it'll take a minimum of 12 hours to get it there," said Samuel Poppell, who owns the Crab Island SandBar. "The closest commercial dock space probably available that might be able to fit something, not even all of us but something, is gonna be in the Sound and the Sound is usually about a five- to six-hour trip on a good day."

"They want the public to think that they're working with us and kind of coming to a compromise, but they know they're shutting us down," Brown said. "They know we have nowhere to take these."

The ordinance will also prohibit the sale, distribution or consumption of alcoholic beverages on various commercial floating structures or vessels at Crab Island. In May, the Destin City Council approved a resolution calling for the county to regulate and/or prohibit the distribution of alcohol by Crab Island businesses.

The state of Florida doesn't grant liquor licenses to businesses that aren't land-based, so the businesses on Crab Island don't directly sell liquor. Instead, they offer it free to anyone 21 years or older who buys certain menu items.

"Someone can buy a daiquiri and we'll tell them it’s a virgin and then offer them the shots of rum or tequila to go along with it for free if they want it," Poppell said. "But they don't have to buy anything, give us a gratuity, nothing. They just have to be 21 years of age and ask for it."

"We do not sell alcohol," Brown added. "If you go to the hair salon and they offer you a glass of wine, (it's the) same thing."

County commissioners are concerned about safety and have said they want Crab Island a more family-friendly place, but the business owners say it's more family-friendly now than ever.

"It's not the wild, wild West," Brown said. "Everyone is enjoying themselves at their boats. The problem is the city council and commissioners will not come out here to look at it for themselves. ... How can you judge something you know nothing about firsthand?"

"You can look around and see that it's clearly more geared toward families on a day like today than any wild party," Poppell said. "There's plenty of examples of places around and business establishments that allow liquor but are also still geared toward families … ."

The business owners said they haven't seen a fight at Crab Island in more than three years.

"It's 100 percent politics," Shipp said. "It has nothing to do with safety, which is the narrative they're trying to sell."