TREASURE ISLAND — A recent influx of unruly visitors has prompted Treasure Island officials to propose restricting alcohol consumption on Sunset Beach during weekends and holidays.
The proposed ordinance was presented at Tuesday night's City Commission workshop, where the majority of officials and attendees supported the restrictions. Many talked of drunken crowds behaving badly and ignoring police, a trend they worry will only get worse.
"I think we're watching the birth of a whole different era of crowd on the beach," said Treasure Island police Chief Tim Casey. "What we're seeing now has not been there before."
The proposed ordinance would ban the possession and consumption of alcohol on Sunset Beach from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Memorial Day. The ban would cover the beach between 99th Avenue and Blind Pass, but would not apply to the private property behind Caddy's on the Beach, the area's most popular bar.
Casey and others worried that viral videos and other photos taken on Sunset Beach were making their rounds on the Internet and attracting a party crowd that seems to be growing. Police regularly check identification on the beach and noticed many of the visitors were from east Hillsborough County and Tampa.
"These are not college kids on spring break," Casey said. "You don't cry wolf with one bad weekend, it's been the last few weekends."
The City Commission did not vote on the ordinance and hoped to seek public input from all Treasure Island residents before voting. Commissioner Gail Caldwell favored the restrictions, but wanted them to cover all Treasure Island beaches, not just Sunset Beach, because she worries the ban would just shift the problem.
Others suggested extending the ban to seven days a week, but Mayor Bob Minning said he didn't notice the problem on weekdays. City Manager Reid Silverboard said he proposed the limited restrictions — not a ban, which would violate a city charter provision previously approved by voters — so other businesses wouldn't be hurt.
The commissioners agreed to advertise a public hearing for an ordinance that restricts weekend alcohol for the entire length of Treasure Island beaches, allowing them to cut back to just Sunset Beach if there's a lot of public opposition.
They also will allow drinking on the beach for special events, such as the Fourth of July fireworks or the Bands on the Sand, or for weddings.
Emily Nipps can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8452.