Commissioners discuss alcohol ban on Pensacola Beach

Escambia County commissioners are discussing what to do about the current open container ordinance on Pensacola Beach.

The ordinance bans alcohol on the boardwalk and non-sandy beach areas.

"When they enacted this, it was under the condition we were going to look at the data and then come back and revisit it. That's why they put in the sunset provision," said District 1 Comissioner Jeff Bergosh.

Sheriff deputies have seen a decrease in certain crimes in the area since the alcohol ban was put in place.

Escambia County Chief Deputy Eric Haines told commissioners the number of fights and disorderly conducts went down in 2016. However, he added people found a way around the law.

"The public quickly learned ways to circumvent the ordinance, as far as putting alcohol in Yeti cooler cups and things like that. But it did have a weak affect as well and it seems to have taken off the more severe crimes," Haines explained.

It reasons like those that have David Bear in favor of dissolving the law.

"I believe it was bad public policy to blame alcoholic beverages for other causes. Nobody has said open containers of alcohol has been a problem," Bear said.

However, not everyone wants to see things revert back to the way they were.

"I think it would actually limit more access because you would drive more of the general population away from the boardwalk for a very specific limited clientele," said Robert Rinke.

Commissioners are torn and want to look at all the data, including stats from the Santa Rosa Island Authority, area businesses, as well as the sheriff's office.

Bergosh told Channel 3 he feels the ordinance might continue for at least another year, but it depends.

"It's gonna depend on what the data shows me. If it's really compelling, limited right here on the boardwalk, I might consider it. But again, my first position is going to be for freedom and liberty, the government is too big and too restrictive," Bergosh added.

Commissioners decided to look at the data then discuss the topic before scheduling a vote during April's commissioner meeting.

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