Sober times for drinkers in beach area | New city law drying up revelers on boardwalk

June 22, 1991 No Comments

Sharon L. Jones. San Diego Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jun 22, 1991. pg. A.1

As the sun dipped toward the sea, Matt Chesnut tipped his 32- ounce beer in a toast to the weekend.

The shirtless Spring Valley man was sitting with friends late yesterday afternoon in the sand, their backs against the Mission Beach boardwalk wall.

Technically, they were violating the city’s new beach booze law, which outlaws the drinking of alcohol on the boardwalk or within 10 feet of the wall. Drinking on the sand outside the 10-foot limit is allowed until 8 p.m.

“Oh well,” said the 23-year-old pool cleaner, shrugging his shoulders when informed of the infraction. “I didn’t even know about it until yesterday.”

Two weeks old, the city’s booze law, along with increased police presence, already appears to have driven many of the troublemakers from Belmont Park and South Mission Beach.

The difference is tangible. The boardwalk seemed empty late yesterday afternoon. Skateboarders had room to show off. Women walked without fear of being harassed by drunkards. Parents played with their children.

“It’s really nice,” said police Officer David Burke, who was cruising the beach on a three-wheeled vehicle. “Most of the die- hards have left. I don’t know where they’ve gone.”

Police are issuing warnings and tickets to those who don’t comply with the new law, prompted in part by the June 1 stabbing deaths of two men in a parking lot near the Bahia Resort Hotel on Mission Bay. The deaths highlighted city officials’ concerns about increasing crime, gang activity and drug and alcohol use in the beach and bay area.

The ban, passed by the San Diego City Council, extends from Ocean Beach to Torrey Pines State Beach.

“Most of the people are complying,” Burke said. “Lots of people are coming up and saying how they can’t believe how much the boardwalk has changed.”

Lifeguard Sgt. John Everhart said the boardwalk booze ban is enabling lifeguards to concentrate on swimmers instead of revelers.

“We’ve had no fights and no medical-aid incidents relating to fights,” he said, summing up the past week. “It seems to be a more family-oriented crowd.”

That’s a change applauded by many Mission Beach business owners and residents, who felt that the crime and violence had reached an intolerable level.

“It’s a lot quieter, but it still needs a little work,” said Robin Swanson, 29, whose husband is part owner of Hamel’s sporting goods store. “We want the bars to open later” in the morning. By law, they can open at 8 a.m.

Mike Fink, a truck driver who enjoys riding his mountain bike on the boardwalk, said he’s glad the rowdy people have cleared out.

“This is pretty calm for a Friday afternoon, the first day of summer,” said Fink, 42, who rides to the beachfront walk regularly from Pacific Beach. “The word is out. If you want to come down here, behave yourself. Everybody benefits.”

Dave Phillips, a 43-year-old resident of Kearny Mesa who walks the boardwalk regularly, had plenty of room to stroll yesterday. He said he didn’t miss the crowds.

“I don’t like the jerks,” said Phillips, who works in a grocery store. “By this time of day, they’d be drunk. And it would be miserable.”

Lisa Dunn, 25, a La Jolla resident who skates the boardwalk with four times a week, said she has felt safer since the new rules took effect.

“Before, there would be a lot of drinking and obnoxious people hanging around,” said Dunn, as she took off her Rollerblades. “Today I didn’t see anybody hanging around.”

Added Dunn, who works in marketing for a commercial insurance firm: “I wish they would ban it (alcohol) altogether.”

Amateur skateboarder Jimmy Parkhill had room to jump a trash can on the sidewalk near the lifeguard station.

“I’m glad they banned it,” said Parkhill, 15. “I hate alcohol.”

For every person who agreed with Parkhill, there was someone ready to defend their right to drink a beer.

“I think it (expletive),” said Stacy Johnson, a 21-year-old College Area resident who moments earlier had received a police warning for standing on the boardwalk with a beer.

Johnson said he knew one of the men killed in the parking lot near the Bahia. Still, he thinks the new rules are wrong. Laws won’t prevent violence, he said.

“I tell you, it’s going to happen, here or there. It’s going to happen everywhere,” Johnson said.

Eddy Maston, 21, and his friend, Laura Powell, 22, complained that police were using the booze law as an excuse to hassle people.

“They’re getting petty,” said Powell, who knows several people who have received tickets.

Gil DeGuzman, a 36-year-old phone technician, argued that San Diego’s reputation as one of the few Southern California communities that allow drinking on the beach is something to take pride in.

“We don’t want to be L.A. or Orange County,” said DeGuzman. “We want to be San Diego. We want to do what we want to do — party.”

Though the area seems much improved to regulars, the beach crowd still frightens some tourists, like 30-year-old Tricia Gann.

Gann, visiting with her husband and two sons from Las Vegas, hadn’t heard anything about the new alcohol restrictions. But she had developed her own opinion on the area.

“I wouldn’t want to send my teen-ager here alone,” she said.
[Illustration]

2 PICS; Caption: 1,2. Tribune photo by Bill Romero

Credit: Tribune Staff Writer

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