Call for dry beach splits community | Backers claim ban would help area

December 9, 2000 No Comments

Angela Lau. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Dec 9, 2000. pg. B.2.1.7

FOR THE RECORD | A story Saturday about a move by the Mission Beach Town Council for a total ban on drinking at Mission Beach incorrectly said that drinking is prohibited at Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and Del Mar Beach between noon and 8 p.m. In fact, alcohol is allowed between those hours but banned after 8 p.m. and before noon. The Union-Tribune regrets the error. (12/12/2000, B-2)

The Mission Beach Town Council wants to ban drinking on the beach, a proposal that has split the community.

While supporters argue that a ban would bring a renewed sense of pride to the neighborhood, opponents say it is too punitive for responsible drinkers.

The Town Council, an advisory group, approved the ban last month. It is now waiting for the San Diego City Council to discuss and make a final decision on the issue.

Mission Beach has a ban on drinking from noon to 8 p.m., but allows drinking outside those hours.

Mission Beach is one of a handful of beaches in the county, and across the United States, that allows drinking, according to Lt. Michael Cash of the San Diego Police Department’s Northern Division. Beaches under National Park Service jurisdiction and in major Southern California cities and counties have implemented 24-hour alcohol bans, he said.

Other San Diego beaches that allow drinking outside the noon to 8 p.m. ban are Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and Del Mar Beach.

Despite the partial ban, Mission Beach accounted for 22 percent of the county’s arrests last year for alcohol-related violations including public drunkenness and possession of alcohol. That gave Mission Beach the largest number of alcohol-related arrests and citations among the county’s communities, according to San Diego Police vice unit Sgt. Michael Davis. Police also reported 137 DUI arrests in Mission Beach last year, putting it among the county’s top five communities in DUI arrests.

San Diego City Councilman Byron Wear, who represents Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and much of Pacific Beach, said he would like to see the City Council take action on alcohol consumption on beaches in the near future.

“I have not yet arrived at a particular direction how far we want to go, but in light of some of the concerns brought up, we may want to take another step toward further restricting consumption, whether it is an outright ban or additional tightening,” he said.

Wear said it is important to balance the right of responsible residents who wish to drink a little at picnics on the beaches and the problem of rowdy drinkers who are straining police resources.

“Every summer, we have 30 officers in the beach community — they are taken away from other areas of the city just to police the beach communities, especially Mission Beach,” Wear said.

He said the number of drinkers at city beaches probably increased after inland parks banned alcohol in 1995.

Proponents of the ban say Mission Beach residents would like the change in the community if alcohol no longer were allowed on the beach.

“People . . . will be very pleasantly surprised at the new pride and character that will come to this community,” said Jean Froning, treasurer of the Mission Beach Town Council and a supporter of the recently proposed ban.

But Bob Weaver, a 56-year-old Mission Beach resident who sometimes drinks a glass of wine while watching the sunset at the beach, calls the move “overkill.”

Weaver said current laws are sufficient to control drunken rowdiness. “They’re throwing out the baby with the bath water,” he said.

Bill Bradshaw, a member of the Town Council who made the motion for the ban, said there is a limit to the number of police officers who can be assigned to patrol the beach.

“If you want to start . . . making the town more family friendly, where do you start?” Bradshaw said. “The rules ought to be tightened up.”

Froning said she regrets the divisiveness the proposed ban has brought.

“There is tremendous change going on here — we have new families, children, people making their lifelong home here,” Froning said. “It’s not so transient anymore. They’re demanding better for their families.”

Some opponents, however, said the proposed ban could harm their businesses.

Sam Salem, owner of Ace Liquor on Mission Boulevard, said he may have to lay off employees because sales would decrease.

“Sure, you have people who fight and drink excessively, but most of the people drink responsibly,” Salem said.

Credit: STAFF WRITER

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