For a fourth straight year, the city of Gulf Shores will ban alcohol from its beaches during the spring beach season.
“It continues to pay dividends,” Chief Ed Delmore told the City Council in a recent meeting.
In 2016, unruly crowds of college students began spring break with massive gatherings on the beaches that threatened to overwhelm police. One poignant incident showed a spring breaker throwing a long-distance pass with a football onto the roof of a Gulf Shores police cruiser. A video from the spring breaker’s perspective of the toss was widely shared on social media.
Police were not amused and a warrant was issued for a Texas State student. In a specially called meeting on March 18, 2016, the City Council voted to ban alcohol on the beach for the remaining month of the season. Most recently, it voted again on Oct. 22 to implement the ban for the third straight full season of spring break to include the 2019 season.
This ban — March 2 to April 28 — is an exceptionally long one influenced by the fall of Easter in the 2019 calendar, Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, told the council. Easter falls on April 21 in 2019.
“A lot of schools dismiss for spring break after the first six weeks, like the first weekend in March, second weekend in March,” Malone said. “Those don’t change. But a lot take their spring break either the week before Easter or the week right after Easter, so those float. If Easter’s late like this, you have to have a longer period to cover spring break.”
The first year or two of the ban local businesses were concerned it would hurt the spring break bottom line.
“There were a number of business owners and restaurant owners that were vehemently opposed,” Councilman Steve Jones said.
But numbers weren’t affected and in fact have been increasing over subsequent years of the ban, Malone said.
“The past few years, when you take March and April together we have seen increases in lodging revenue and in retail sales each of those three years,” Malone said.
Business owners have now embraced the ban, Jones said.
Malone and both coastal resort cities want Alabama beaches to be seen as family friendly. The ban keeps out the more rowdy crowd and families are noticing, Jones said.
“It’s a shame we had to get to this point and do this to our visitors but I think it has resulted in higher-quality visitors or at least a better-behaved visitor,” Jones said. “And they spend more money and are satisfied with the experience.”
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