Public drinking ban back on the table for Tybee Island

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - A proposal to ban public drinking on Tybee Beach is on the table again as the city continues to look for ways to deter large crowds during the months of March, April and May.

City council members considered passing a similar ordinance earlier in the year, but that proposal was shot down because it came down in April, which was too late in the game. City leaders didn't want to make any rash decisions, but this time, they are giving themselves plenty of time. According to the drafted proposal, the ban would restrict alcohol consumption in public, on the beach, and in parking lots during the months of March, April and May - ending right before the Memorial Day weekend.

Officials say the behavior of partygoers over the last few years has gotten out of hand, including a shooting near the Tybee Island pier back in 2015. We were also told that they've had issues with indecent exposure in parking lots.

"It's a concern of many people on council and many residents that there's too much alcohol on the beach. It's a way to hopefully calm it down for the police department and make it easier for them. Now, whether or not this is the right approach, I don't know. I'm not sold on the idea yet," said Mayor Pro Tem Barry Brown.

Many Tybee Island businesses fear a proposed public drinking ban would cripple the city's economy, especially since it is still recovering from Hurricane Matthew.

While many folks can agree that something needs to be done, not everyone is convinced an alcohol ban is the solution.

"If they pass that ordinance, we might as well shut the doors," said Nickie's Bar & Grill owner, Calvin Ratterree.

Ratterree can't help but fear the worst about how a proposed public drinking ban during the months of March, April and May would impact his business. The proposal is driven by on-going safety issues and concerns that arise every year during these months when thousands of partygoers come to Tybee for spring break and Orange Crush.

"They are trying to make things safer for everybody and I applaud them for that," said Tybee Island resident, John O'Neill.

The city attempted to pass a similar ordinance back in April but it was shot down because some city leaders wanted more time. But time has only convinced Mayor Pro Tem Brown that this may not be the solution.

"To have no open container during that time or even on the sidewalks, it's going to hurt a lot of businesses on Tybee Island because they depend on that time of year to make their living," Brown said.

Since Hurricane Matthew, business has been unusually slow. Many businesses are financially depending on the upcoming spring and summer months

"We need that revenue to keep going because winter time is already bad enough," said Ratterree.

But should this ordinance pass, Ratterree fears this ordinance will do more than just keep folks from drinking on the beach but possibly keep folks from coming to Tybee altogether.

"People will find somewhere else to go because that's what they want to do and they are going to find a place whether it's here or somewhere else," said Ratterree.

City officials are still working on a final draft of this proposed ordinance. The Tybee City Council is expected to vote on this in January.

Of course, we'll continue to keep you updated.

You can read a draft of the proposal below: 

If a drinking ban were to pass on Tybee, people wanting to drink on the beach would have to head to Jekyll Island or St. Simon's Island.

Those are the only two places in our area where alcohol IS allowed.

It's prohibited on Hilton Head Island, Myrtle Beach, Folly Beach and Jacksonville.

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