TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. – Spring break is near which means so are the crowds from some of the events, mainly Orange Crush, that happen on Tybee Island.
However, city officials want to prevent dangerous situations fueled by drugs and alcohol. So they’ve researched what surrounding cities have done.
“Hilton Head was actually part of the original group that the mayor asked this group to look into this,” Wanda Doyle, a Tybee city council member, said.
But in Hilton Head you can’t drink on the beach anyway so they looked to places that enforced an alcohol ban, mainly Panama City Beach.
“Most of my research done is through news articles and internet stories that people told,” Doyle said.
Mayor Jason Buelterman took his research a step further. He spoke with Mike Thomas, the mayor of Panama City, and found a ban would secure the area, but have repercussions.
“It changed our problem most dramatically at the first mention of it,” Thomas said. “We had less reservations that hurt a lot of businesses. It took a lot of money out of the community for that period.”
That’s one of Doyle’s concerns.
“Tybee Island is a lot smaller than Panama City and the spring break weeks for our businesses they depend on that,” Doyle said.
So did the businesses in Panama City.
“A lot of the businesses that was a huge part of their entire year,” Thomas said. “Some businesses say they were down 70-80% during that time which constituted they’re guesstamation was a third of their business. Some of them it was half of their year’s business.”
Thomas says it was a difficult move for the Panama City leaders to make, but it had to be done.
“It was a necessary move,” Thomas said. “I didn’t like doing it I’ll tell ya that. I don’t think we outta be tellin grown people that they can’t have a drink on the beach, but it reached a point that we had to do something to clean up the whole thing.”
A mess that hurt the entire city financially, but eventually they recovered
“Revenue was off for a little while, but it picked up,” Thomas said. “It came back and what it did for the secure feeling and the secure atmosphere around it was all worth it.”
The alcohol ban proposed for Tybee is from March 2nd through the first Saturday in May where no alcohol will be allowed on public grounds.
The council is expected to vote on Thursday, February 9th, at 7 p.m.