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Business regulation at Crab Island
On a nice day, you'll see hundreds of boats anchored near the Destin bridge at a spot called Crab Island.
A number of floating businesses have sprung up there, prompting questions about who regulates commerce and safety.
It's easier to figure out who's not in charge....than who is.
Back when, Crab Island was nothing more than a shallow spot where people anchored out and spent their day. But where there are people there are opportunities to make money. Now behind me there are businesses ranging from restaurants to an inflatable kids' playground.
When everything's going well, it doesn't really matter who's regulating Crab Island.
It's a fun spot, and a boon to tourist businesses like the one Austin Sharp works for.
"Families come down, they'll rent out a pontoon boat, they'll go anchor off over there at Crab Island and hang out for most of the day," said Austin.
Destin Mayor Mel Ponder says that's what some of his friends were doing when they had a big scare. Their young son fell off an inflatable attraction, and ended up underneath it.
"Not to say there's not people life guarding it the other times, but at the time he was there there was no one there policing it. He kinda fell in the cracks and thankfully another friend of his saw his hand sticking up from one of the floats and was able to save him, really"
Ponder says he's all for people doing business, but the incident led him to ask who's in charge out there.
Both the city of Destin and Okaloosa County say they don't have authority in state waters.
"If there is no regulatory authority, then it almost can become an anything goes," said Mel.
A rep from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation says they regulate only the types of businesses they would on land; primarily food sellers.
The tax collector says everyone is supposed to have their business tax receipt, formerly called an occupational license.
Outside of law enforcement, that seems to be all there is.
On the 15th, various local agencies that have some regulatory interest out there, everyone form the sheriff's office to the tax collector, they're going to meet and talk about best practices for Crab Island.