Panama City debates changing hours for alcohol sales
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Should Panama City limit alcohol sales during spring break season? City leaders held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss bringing one of the beach’s spring break laws across the bridge.
When it comes to handling massive crowds, Panama City Police Chief Mark Smith said you can’t be all bark with no bite.
“I have little to no teeth as the police chief or as a law enforcement agency to clearly be able to address beyond public safety,” Smith said.
Safety is something Mayor Greg Brudnicki doesn’t play around with.
“I don’t want my citizens getting hurt. I don’t want to have my officers to have to run towards gunfire. Run toward gunfire like they’re in a war,” Brudnicki said.
After last weekend’s chaos on the beach, Brudnicki is proposing Panama City ban alcohol sales after 2 a.m. for the months of March and April.
“I don’t care where else somebody else goes who wants to do stuff,” Brudnicki said. “But it’s not going to be here.”
This possible change in ordinance is something police stand behind, as some of those crowds made their way across the bridge.
“Outside their car tucking guns into their pants or their pockets or their backpacks or their purses and things like that to enter the club,” Smith said.
Officials said takeover parties are part of the problem.
“I don’t want to have people invite people here that they know is going to be a problem,” Brudnicki said. “Not their problem because they’re making a bunch of money.”
On the other side of things, stopping alcohol sales two hours earlier is also taking away two hours of business for places like the Salty Hobo. Employees said they’re worried it’ll take a big chunk of their paychecks, which is money they need to support themselves and loved ones.
“Like for me, my whole family works for the industry I’m in, for the business that I run. I’m the manager, my wife’s the bartender, my kids are servers and hosts,” Scott Jackson, general manager of the Salty Hobo, said. “So you take those hours away, it will hurt my whole family.”
Some bar employees said they see why the city wants to take action, but don’t understand why the law can’t be more specific.
“There is an issue but it’s not a local issue. It’s people from outside of our community that’s coming in and hurting us all and if you cater to that, I think you need to be punished for that,” Jackson said.
City leaders said they’re taking the idea into consideration.
Brudnicki said they’re going to make some changes to the ordinance before it’s read and voted on at the next scheduled meeting, which will be on April 12. If voted in, the law will go into effect immediately.
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