Lifting beach booze ban not a concern for sheriff's office

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Lifting beach booze ban not a concern for sheriff's office

By Matt Grant. CREATED Sep 5, 2012 - UPDATED: Sep 5, 2012

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. - As Fort Myers Beach restaurants gear up to serve customers on the sand after a booze ban was lifted, the sheriff's office says the new ordinance won't mean more work for them.

Iowa tourist Greg Vinema will have to wait until next March to sip his cocktail on part of the beach.

"It'll be a nice change for the tourists that come here," said Vinema, "and still maintain that level of responsibility."

Signs warn customers not to bring alcohol on the beach. But after a year of debate council voted to let bars and restaurants serve booze on the sand.

Supporters say this will benefit tourists and businesses, critics say it will increase noise, commotion and partying particularly during Spring Break.

"Is this going to be a catalyst for that?," said Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker. "I don't think so."

Public parts of the beach will still be alcohol-free. But next March, restaurants and bars will be able to serve alcohol on their beach property inside a roped-off area.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office says the new ordinance won't change the way they patrol the beach.

"They're simply increasing their serving area," said Lt. Michael Ciolino with the Lee County Sheriff's Office. "So, as far as the public area which we enforce, it'll probably be the same. I cant see where it would be an issue for us at all."

More than a decade ago the sheriff's office had a sub-station on the beach that closed down. Before Wednesday's vote, Lee County Parks and Recreation said they would like to see it come back.

"I think if that would benefit the community, I'm for it," said Dave Harner with Parks and Recreation. "And if the sheriff can do it financially then, of course, we're for it."

The sheriff's office says that's not in the works.

"We'll continue to patrol Fort Myers Beach," said Ciolino. "As we always have."

The new ordinance takes effect March 4.

Matt Grant