Judge Upholds New Panama City Spring Break Rules

In spite of many complaints by Panama City business owners, alcohol is prohibited on the Panama City beach during the month of March, according to a court ruling Friday in Tallahassee.

According to the Panama City News Herald, U.S District Court Judge Mark E. Walker heard almost eight hours of legal argument as many pro-Spring Break businesses fought new Spring Break ordinances with only weeks before thousands of students arrive in Panama City.

Club La Vela, Harpoon Harry’s and Spinnaker Beach Club owners filled an injunction on eight counts of their 15-count lawsuit against the city regarding the city regulations passed last June and July in the wake of  last year’s incident-ridden Spring Break.

Walker said that concerns raised by owners were not sufficient to permit an injunction.

Several of last year’s incidents in Panama City gained national attention. Events such as: an alleged gang rape caught on video, a shooting at a house party that injured several Texas A&M University students and a fight involving then-Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott that was also caught on video.

Panama City officials wrote several new laws after the events in an effort to reduce partying.

One new ordinance prevents the consumption of alcohol in the month of March along an 18.5 mile-long section of Panama City’s beach and in commercial parking lots. Another ordinance changes bars’ closing time from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. during the month of March.

Shara Foster, a native of Panama City and a second-year health care management student at Florida A&M University, said that she was not surprised by the new laws.

“I feel like they take away from the spring break experience,” Foster said. “But I saw it coming because they’ve been trying to pass the laws for years.”

Taylah Jenkins, a FAMU second-year occupational therapy student from Fort Lauderdale said that she sees the good in the new laws.

“I feel like those laws were made to protect the students which is good,” Jenkins said.

However, opponents argued that the new laws will hurt businesses and tourism, according to the Panama City News Herald.

A group known as the Citizens United for Panama City Beach made and wore shirts with the words “Please save our jobs” on the night the city commission voted on the laws.

Carissa Robinson, a third-year FAMU political science student from Fort Lauderdale, was in Panama City for spring break last year. She believes that the new laws make Panama City a less attractive destination.

“I think [city officials] ruined it,” Robinson said. “That is what the place is known for, so I know that it definitely won’t be a place students are going to go.”

Jenkins agreed saying that students will flock to other destinations in light of the new laws.

“Everyone seems like they’re going to take the fun to Miami,” Jenkins said.

Last October, Club La Vela, Harpoon Harry’s and Spinnaker Beach Club filed a lawsuit against the city saying the new ordinances annul the businesses’ civil rights.

The case is ongoing and it is not yet known how the Friday ruling with affect the case.