Fla. officials debate beach drinking ban

March 9, 2012 at 5:59 PM

SARASOTA, Fla., March 9 (UPI) -- As tourists travel to Sarasota County, Fla., for spring break, commissioners are debating whether drinking on the beach should be legal in the county.

Family and friends of Donna Chen, a beach jogger who was killed by a suspected drunk driver in January, have lobbied county commissioners to consider a ban on alcohol on Sarasota beaches, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Thursday.

However, young tourists said they will go to other beach destinations, such as Miami or Daytona, if alcohol is banned on Sarasota beaches.

"If there were an alcohol ban, I don't know who would come here," said Gabe Arredondo, 21, who visited Siesta Key Beach this week with a dozen of his friends. "I mean, there are other beaches. It would definitely stop us. I'm from Orlando -- we could go to Daytona, Clearwater. We're not trying to do anything hooliganish, we're just trying to chill out."

The loss of spring break business could dampen Sarasota County's economy and its goal of Siesta Beach being designated the No. 1 beach in the country.

"I think that policy decisions like that probably should be made with a cool head and not in the heat of such an emotional moment," said Commissioner Nora Patterson, who represents Siesta Key.

James Greene, a server at Siesta Key Oyster Bar, said many tourists on spring break come into his establishment after a day of drinking on the beach.

"It would hurt business," he said. "That's part of the allure. People drink on the beach and come and drink more."

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