Spring break, but not booze, on the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk

By Claudia Carlson
Staff Writer

alcohol

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johns.

Spring break is here for UWF students, but if you are planning to go to Pensacola Beach, be aware. Some things are not as they used to be.

The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners approved an ordinance that took effect March 1 banning the possession of open containers of alcohol in the central commercial areas of Pensacola Beach. Along with the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, this ban also includes parking lots, streets, sidewalks, parks and other public areas or recreational facilities within the restricted area.

Open containers (no glass) are allowed only in the sand, the beach itself, except for the family designated area of Casino Beach just west of Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier.

This ordinance means that when you go to a bar or restaurant on Pensacola Beach, you are not allowed to leave the premises with an alcoholic beverage, as in the past.

“I think this new ordinance is a really good idea,” said Natasha Coulter, Pensacola Beach Hooters waitress. “The laws on the beach about drinking should be stricter. There are so many people who get too intoxicated, and with this ordinance, I believe it will help make the boardwalk a safer place.”

“There are also so many underage people, or people in general, who try to sneak their alcoholic drinks into our establishment, so I really do think this will be a good thing.”

The ban on open containers of alcohol anywhere other than the sandy beaches was put into effect on March 1, just in time for spring break season.

“The move is largely aimed at the raucous behavior business owners say has become the norm at the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk on weekend nights during the tourism season. While drinking will be allowed inside bars on the boardwalk, drinking on the boardwalk will not,” according to a Pensacola News Journal story on March 1, 2016.

In November, the PNJ conducted a Twitter poll asking followers: “#PensacolaBeach alcohol ban a good idea or bad idea?” Thirty-four percent of recipients voted it was a good idea, while 66 percent voted it a bad idea.

While this may seem like a bad thing for spring breakers, tourists or beachgoers in general, this ordinance is for the safety of the public.

“I remember when I was little, my mom telling me how dangerous the boardwalk was at night, and how she never wanted me to go there,” said Emily Ioakim, a college student on spring break. “While on spring break this past week, I stayed at Perdido Beach because it is calm and safer, but I still went to the boardwalk one day, went to Bamboo Willies and got drinks with my friends. I didn’t think it was a problem, only being able to drink inside the bar. We didn’t even notice.”

The county will be monitoring crime and business statistics on the beach to see how well the ordinance is working. In June of 2017 the ban will either expire or become permanent, depending on the results of the statistics.

Spring breakers, be safe, have fun — just keep your alcoholic beverages in the bars or the non-restricted white sand.