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Treasure Island shifts line in sand on alcohol ban

TREASURE ISLAND — The lawsuit filed in 2011 against the city of Treasure Island by 66 plaintiffs questioning the city's efforts to block alcohol consumption on the beach may soon be dropped.

One of the plaintiffs, Atul Shah, owner of Atcost Liquors & Beer at 9861 Gulf Blvd., recently approached the city about dropping the suit if the city would agree to move the northern boundary of the restricted area that includes his store farther south to 99th Avenue.

Treasure Island currently restricts the possession and consumption of alcohol on a section of Sunset Beach on weekends, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., from early February through September.

Shah, who has been a business owner for 20 years, said his "sales were down dramatically" since sales were banned to try to control unruly beach crowds during spring break and summer vacations.

"It has literally cut my sales in half," Shah said. "We are definitely struggling to accept this ban with open arms."

City attorney Maura Kiefer presented a revised ordinance Tuesday to city commissioners, saying the police chief doesn't object to reducing the size of the regulated area. Commissioners approved the ordinance on first reading after Kiefer said the other plaintiffs will be asked to sign a settlement saying they won't pursue further action against the city.

Atcost Liquors and the 7-Eleven at 9695 Gulf Blvd., as well as a large group of residents, wanted the restrictions rescinded. Tim Driscoll, attorney for the group suing the city, has said the ban violates a 1986 city referendum that tossed out an earlier ordinance that prohibited consumption of alcohol on public property anywhere in the city.

Kiefer, however, argued that it did not violate the city's charter because it was a "partial regulation of time and places" where drinking would be restricted.

For years, weekend drinking and lewd behavior among beachgoers led to complaints and even a lawsuit to force the city to enforce parking regulations in an attempt to discourage beach crowds.

Sunset Beach residents complained about heavy traffic, blocked streets and driveways, drunkenness and obnoxious behavior, including beach visitors urinating in residential yards and sexual trysts in beach dunes.

In 2009, a proposed 60-day ban on alcohol on all the city's beaches was rejected amid strong opposition from residents in other parts of the city.

Treasure Island shifts line in sand on alcohol ban 03/23/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 5:34pm]
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