Gulf Shores, Ala. officials have banned all alcohol on beaches within the city limits between March 1 and April 17. The decision came because of violence and lewd behavior linked to heavy drinking.
Gulf Shores is not the first city to prohibit the consumption of alcohol on its beaches during the peak of college spring break months. In 2015, Panama City Beach (PCB) banned alcohol on its beaches during the month of March due to extreme heavy drinking, which led to volatile situations. In fact, it was the result of PCB’s ban on alcohol that led Gulf Shores’ official decision to do the same.
“We began to see an influx of spring breakers gathering on the beach in large congregations and consuming large quantities of alcohol over an extended period of time,” said Joe Garris, councilmember for Gulf Shores Place One. “As Panama City Beach began to take steps to remove the heavy beach drinking from its beaches, we thought we may see some of these displaced individuals make their way to our community. It appears that is what’s happening, and our message by passing this ordinance is that we do not want to be the alternate location for that activity.”
Areas south of the sand fencing and sand dune are also covered in the ordinance. The punishment for consuming alcohol on these beaches is a fine and possible jail time.
“Our police will first inform the person of the ordinance and ask them to remove the alcohol,” said Garris. “If the person refuses, the punishment is a fine up to $500 and/or up to six months in jail.”
As a result of PCB’s ban on alcohol last year, the city saw a significant decrease in the amount of spring breakers in 2016. However, Gulf Shores is not worried about the possible drop in revenue the ban may cause.
“Our community has never catered to the rowdy, excessive drinking spring breaker crowds,” said Garris. “Our success has been with families coming to enjoy our way of life, and we fear that not taking this step to protect that part of our economy would be much more damaging than the short-term revenue.”
While PCB and Gulf Shores have both prohibited alcohol on its beaches during peak spring break months, there are still many other nearby beaches that have not yet followed suit. Miami Beach seems to be one location that spring breakers have flocked to in the wake of these bans on alcohol.