Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

Treasure Island expands alcohol-friendly beach area

BY JOSH BOATWRIGHT
Tribune staff

Published:   |   Updated: July 12, 2013 at 06:57 AM

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TREASURE ISLAND - Soon, there will be about a block more of beach here where people can drink alcohol.

At its last meeting, the Treasure Island City Commission voted to shorten the northern boundary of the half-mile zone around Caddy's on the Beach where alcohol consumption is restricted on weekends during the busy season.

The rules were put in place in 2011 for a stretch of beach from 85th Avenue to just south of 100th Avenue, near the Island Inn, to tamp down on rowdy parties that were consistently spilling over from Caddy's.

Commissioners voted to move the boundary line down to 99th Avenue.

Why such a small adjustment to the rules?

The reason was settling a lawsuit brought by the owner of a liquor store whose business is located just within the regulated area and dozens of other residents who claimed the special no-alcohol zone runs afoul of the city charter, City Attorney Maura Kiefer said.

Atcost Liquor store owner Atul Shah says he suggested moving the line to 99th Avenue, near a beach access point, to make it clear to residents and tourists where the alcohol-restricted area starts.

Though he still thinks having a special regulation area takes away the rights of residents within the zone to enjoy an alcoholic beverage like other Treasure Island residents, Shah says he's satisfied with the city making the line clearer.

"I thought it would be more business sense to drop the lawsuit because I've been here for a long time," he said. "I've been on the beach for almost 25 years, and I certainly don't want a bitter taste in my mouth later on."

The Treasure Island police chief advised commissioners the change was unlikely to cause the beach to revert to the anarchy seen prior to the restrictions.

In those days, hundreds of people, many underage, would gather every weekend on the beach, rolling kegs across Gulf Boulevard, spending all day getting drunk, doing drugs and then wandering into beachfront properties to relieve themselves in the sea oats and engage in other kinds of trouble.

Commissioners enacted rules in 2011 that ban alcohol in this area on weekend days between February and September and during major holidays.

Vice Mayor Alan Bildz said he actually favored a broader area of restriction on the beach, fearing the party would simply move north and south of the boundaries.

The change, however, was instantaneous.

"It was like night and day. It happened immediately," he said. "It's incredible. The darkest of dark and then the sun came out."

The new adjustment to the rules has caused worry for some residents who will now be within the unregulated zone.

Noel Johnson, whose home was in the alcohol-free zone, told commissioners at a July 2 meeting she opposes the change.

"There are a lot of singe-family and multifamily homeowners there that actually like a little peace and quiet without people coming in their yard to urinate in their bushes and take a shower and park and raise bedlam," she said.

Terry Lipham, whose home is just south of the Island Inn, said moving the line will give families and those who don't drink less places to enjoy the beach.

He didn't favor creating the restrictions, but since they've been in place, he's actually seen more people line up right next to the no-alcohol signs on the beach in front of his house to drink.

"I've had people come and set up and set their chair on the line and put their drink in their right hand," said Lipham, 67. "It's funny what people do."

The new rules won't be officially enacted until the lawsuit is dismissed in court, Bildz said.

Should the shortening of boundary start causing problems, the commission reserves the right to change it back, Blidz said.

jboatwright@tampatrib.com

727-215-1277

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