Along with a month-long booze ban, which was passed in 2015, March also bring a 2 a.m. deadline to purchase alcohol anywhere in city limits.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Officials are adamant that the beach still isn’t the place to crack open a cold one during March.
Along with the month-long booze ban, which was passed in 2015, March is also paired with a 2 a.m. deadline to purchase alcohol anywhere within city limits, said Drew Whitman, chief of the Panama City Beach Police Department.
“We’re still going to be zero tolerance,” Whitman said. “If you’re drinking or in possession of alcohol on the sandy portion of the beach, you’re going to get cited or go to jail.”
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He added that anyone caught with a drink in hand on the sand could pay up to $500.
For Panama City Beach Councilmen Hector Solis, the ban was key to transitioning the city from a national spring break hot-spot toward its current status as a year-long, family-friendly destination.
“The raucous, rowdy parties are no longer going on,” Solis said. “It’s been a good thing for the city. ... Everybody’s finally coming to the beach now.”
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He was part of a citizens group dubbed Citizens for a New Panama City Beach that lobbied alongside the Bay County Sheriff’s Office to re-brand the beach.
“There was a period of time when things had really gotten out of control,” said Solis, who added that he didn’t run for office until after the ordinances were passed. “There were a lot of national headlines.”
Looking ahead, he and Whitman agreed that the only way to prevent issues from coming back to light is to continue diligently enforcing the restrictions.
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“I bring in mutual aid (during March) and we’ll have ATVs on the beach and have extra officers out,” Whitman said. “We’ll (also) be working extended shifts.”
He added that the regulations help keep the beaches friendly and safe so that “everybody can have a good time.”
“There’s always going to be those who try and test it, and (Whitman) has a very good, measured approach on how he handles things,” Solis said. “We’re hoping for the best. We’re hoping to have a good March.”