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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."

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