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Should Alcohol Be Banned On Siesta Key Beach?

The Sarasota County Commission is expected to hear the public's thoughts March 14 on whether or not alcohol should be banned on Siesta Key Beach.

The Sarasota County Commission is expected to hear the public's thoughts March 14 on whether or not alcohol should be banned on Siesta Key Beach.

The agenda item comes after a meeting between Commissioner Joe Barbetta and the family of Donna Chen. on Midnight Pass Road after the driver, Blake Talman, was told to leave by sheriff's deputies at the beach after he was visibly drunk and becoming a nuisance.

The family had presented testimony and pleas to ban alcohol on the beach, according to media reports, and even a map showing that 90 percent of beaches in Florida ban alcohol. That amounts to five beaches allowing alcohol, according to ABC Action News, who quoted Chen's father Gordon MacPhail:

"Ninety percent of other counties prohibit the use of alcohol.  There's a reason for it, and we want to know what the reason is," said MacPhail. 

The Bradenton Times' Dennis Maley even points out that beyond Florida, there are major beaches on the East Coast, even in cities with a party reputation, that ban alcohol on the beach:

When it comes to drinking on the beach, it's admittedly much more complicated. I've been a beach lover since I was a child when family vacations always had something to do with sand and surf from Cape May, Wildwood and Stone Harbor, New Jersey to Lewes, Dewey and Rehobeth, Delaware – and of course Ocean City, Maryland and even Virginia Beach. But never had I been to a public beach that allowed alcohol until I first visited Siesta Key in 1999. In fact, many communities near the places I mentioned were dry – no alcohol sales period.

After the public has their say on the issue, it could take months until the commissioners would vote on the issue, according to WWSB:

It could take anywhere from three to six months before the proposal is actually voted on.

Barbetta would not speculate as to whether or not the proposal would have enough strength to be voted into an ordinance.

As far as question about how the ban would be enforced, Barbetta wouldn't get into specifics. He said that enforcement would be a law enforcement issue.

Commissioner Nora Patterson though, who was not present at the meeting Tuesday, has told ABC 7 in the past that she believes such a ban would be very difficult to enforce.

Barbetta told ABC Action News that the issue would be given a "full assessment" by the commission.

Barbetta told SNN6 that there's not overwhelming support from the public for the ban saying that correspondance he's received is split on the issue.

Julie Ditmarsen, a Sarasota crafter who repurposes beach finds and shells, wrote to Commissioner Christine Robinson asking where the line would be drawn for bans on activities related to drinking at a certain location:

"So let’s just say someone has a nice dinner and a few drinks and hits a runner, will they ban drinking in restaurants???   Or someone leaves a baseball game and accidentally kills someone.  

Will they ban beer at the ball park?  I think not.  Come on people, some common sense please.  

How about someone drinking in their own home then accidentally killing someone, ban at-home drinking??? Severely punish people who drink irresponsibly while driving.  

Simple as that! 

There is nothing better than meeting fellow retired friends at the best beach in the US on a Sunday evening at drum circle and enjoying a glass of wine.

 And if there are laws, they should be enforced.  Enforce the no smoking ban at the beaches, cigarette butts are everywhere and cannot be good for seagulls and fish."

SRQ March 07, 2012 at 09:31 PM
I agree that this was and will forever be horrific. My heart goes out to this family. Our local law enforcement are supposed to pay attention to this type of thing. Why did they let him drive off after multiple warnings? All too often I see our law enforcement mismanaging their budgets by going after the wrong things (ie, chasing after kids for silly things). But, letting a known to be disorderly man go into a driver's seat of his car after multiple warnings because of his behavior is no different than handing him a loaded weapon. If he was disorderly or drunk in public, there are laws governing this behavior. Let's enforce the laws that are already on the books.
RJ March 08, 2012 at 05:28 PM
People are slowly giving away there rights as Americans, These rights we have are what makes us Americans. Giving them away just because of a mess up or because some one is upset is not the way to go. We also have a choice as Americans to choose if we drive after having one drink or so. Soon there will be a story saying our right to drink at all should be taken from us. Now making the punishment more harsh for breaking current laws might be what we should vote on. Thinking you will loose your license for life by getting a DUI just might make someone think twice about driving while drunk. It's worth a $20.00 cab ride home for me if that were the case. Don't give away what we fought so hard to protect in the beginning. Just my thought, please don't take it the wrong way.( our freedom of speach we have that I will use till it becomes against the law )
Austin Paramore March 08, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I have about 20 friends that come to Sarasota from all over Florida for the 4th of July each year. We put on a huge beach party that is one of the biggest highlights of our year. Yes, we get rowdy, but we rope off an area, use wristbands, and coordinate Designated Drivers. I agree that this incident was a horrible tragedy, but do not punish the rest of us who are responsible. If that kid wasn't getting drunk on the beach, he would have been getting drunk at Beach Club or SKOB or D. Deck, and then he would have taken the same route home in a similar state. Banning alcohol at certain venues will only cause these irresponsible people to drink somewhere else. It will not solve any problems.
jennieb March 08, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I feel for this family and understand their need to try and right a horrible wrong. They don't want their loved ones death to be in vain and hope to justify this senselessness by using this one henious act to make new rules for all of us. I get it. But, I have spent over 50 years visiting this beach and the problems with alcohol on the beach has, for the most part, been minor. Let's don't "throw the baby out with the bathwater." Leave the law as it is and allow us to enjoy the out-of-doors with a brew or other libation as many, many responsible people have for decades.
Lora March 08, 2012 at 09:59 PM
When did drinking alohol on the beach become a constitutional right?
Lora March 08, 2012 at 10:49 PM
The poll is a waste of time. You have a beach that is going to ATTRACT drinkers, particularly since so few beaches allow it, and then you ask those drinkers if they want to continue drinking on the beach. Really?
Norman Schimmel March 08, 2012 at 11:54 PM
This is nothing less than a horrible inceident and loss to the family. My take is quite different and has nothing to do with Police, the beach rules, etc. Why today, does no one talk about the individuals responsibility? His families repsonsibility? Why are we so quick to blame the police , rules, etc; when in reality, this is not the norm. The fault is the individual person and the family that brought them up - period. Stop trying to cchange rules and blsme people in crimes when we must look TO OURSELVES as individuals, for any and all crime.
Deborah Weatherby January 04, 2013 at 05:28 PM
What about a drunk and disorderly charge, that is a crime and still wouldn't impugn others enjoying a beer or two at the beach. And it is a fact that if someone gets in a car drunk and has control of the keys, that is a DUI.

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