Revelers float right past city’s beach alcohol ban [aka. Floatopia II]September 6, 2009 No Comments
At Fanuel Street Park in Pacific Beach holiday weekend revelers found a way around the ban on alcohol at city beaches by taking part in Floatopia on Mission Bay in 2009. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / Union-Tribune)
SAN DIEGO — No longer allowed to drink alcohol on San Diego beaches, Aubrey Taylor and her friends moved the party to the bay by drinking cold cans of Bud Light while floating in giant inner tubes a few feet offshore.
The women were among a Mission Bay crowd estimated by police at 2,500 yesterday who took advantage of a loophole in the city’s beach booze ban: People can have open containers of alcohol as long as their feet aren’t touching the sand.
The ban was made permanent by voters in November.
“I’d rather be able to drink on the beach than in the water — I think that’s much more dangerous,” said Taylor, 22, of Pacific Beach. “But that’s the way it is.”
Revelers dragged colorful tubes, animal-shaped rafts and coolers through Fanuel Street Park beginning at 10 a.m. and formed small floating groups on the water. The event is known as “Floatopia”; word of it is spread on the social-networking sites Facebook and Twitter.
About 3,000 rafters converged off the park and its playground a few weeks ago. Police issued more than 50 citations and arrested some people on suspicion of being drunk in public.
Officials weren’t taking any chances this time, with several police officers, lifeguards and park rangers keeping a close eye on the floaters.
“We are doing a lot of education on the sand and enforcing all laws: no open containers, no glass, no littering, no smoking and no underage drinking,” said San Diego Assistant Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.
Lifeguards on boats and Jet Skis worked to keep the rafts from joining together and forming massive floating islands, which could be hazardous if someone fell overboard and got caught underneath.
“We don’t want anyone to get hurt out here,” Zimmerman said.
Police arrested several people on suspicion of public drunkenness yesterday and issued a few citations for open containers on the beach and littering, Zimmerman said. One person was arrested on suspicion of assault for throwing sand at a news cameraman.
Lifeguards made four water rescues, but no one was seriously hurt.
“Most of the people upset in the community are upset about the trash in the water — cans, cardboard. There’s lots of litter,” Zimmerman said.
Sean Deal, 23, and a buddy loaded a cooler and a case of beer onto an air mattress and floated out, but came back to shore after a few minutes.
“I think we’re going to get on a friend’s boat later so we don’t have to be around this craziness,” Deal said. “The rules are too strict.”
By Kristina Davis, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER