New laws in Panama City Beach hurt spring break business


PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Panama City Beach businesses say new laws aimed at cutting down excessive spring break drinking are also hurting sales and forcing layoffs.

Bars, restaurants, scooter shops and other businesses say they’re letting employees go as sales have dropped 50 to 85 percent after new laws that ban drinking on the beach during spring break, cut club hours and more, according to a report by the Panama City News Herald.

“Look around. There is no one in here. It’s scary,” said John Wayne, who runs a T-shirt and gift shop with his wife.

Sparky Sparkman, the owner of Spinnaker Beach Club, said his business is down 85 to 90 percent compared to last spring break as college students find other beach towns to spend spring break.

“We’re in a crisis,” Sparkman said. “I’m letting people go left and right. Normally I have a work force of 300 at this time of the year. We have less than half that.”

Sparkman said it’s not just the new laws that are driving people away from the club, but an increase in police presence.

The new regulations were prompted by a series of problems that included three men charged with alleged sexual assault on a crowded beach and a shooting at a spring break house party last year.

“I’m very pleased the message got out,” Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen said in a prepared statement.

Several business owners said they understand why some laws were passed after the spring break, but they said the city and county went too far.

“I definitely think something should have been done, but it was a knee-jerk reaction and it wasn’t thought out,” said Mercedes Lopanec, a pizza shop owner whose business is down 85 percent from last March. “I will say I like the kids now. They aren’t drunk and stupid and disrespectful.”

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.