According to Councilman Phil Chester, the sandy beach from Boardwalk Beach Resort to Long Beach Resort will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. until July 31 to prevent what he and other leaders have dubbed “pop-up events.” All other portions of the beach will remain open 24 hours a day.
Pop-up events are large, unsanctioned and often spontaneous gatherings, which local law enforcement officers have struggled to contain in the past.
“We’re just trying to disperse the crowds, especially at night when it is dangerous,” Chester said of the ruling. “It’s just very difficult for police when there’s a crowd like that on the beach. I think this will really help out our office and keep (the city) safe.”
Deputy Chief Chad Lindsey of the Beach Police Department said pop-up events in the area have attracted up to 400 people, many of whom are younger tourists who rent rooms in surrounding condos.
This, paired with several large parking lots in that area, creates a “funnel” for people that leads to the now temporarily closed stretch of the beach.
“Crowds of these young people tend to gather at night … and often cause disturbances,” Lindsey wrote in an email. “These crowds have been very rowdy at times, and it is both disturbing and concerning for our locals and other visitors here with their small children.
“This also has been the site of more than one shooting, and earlier this year one of our police officers was struck by a beer bottle thrown by someone in (a) crowd.”
Panama City Beach announced the closure in a Facebook post on Friday. As of Monday afternoon, it had more than 2,000 reactions, 2,000 comments and about 8,000 shares.
Many of the comments were in support of the decision, which officials have enacted during the same time period for at least the past couple of years.
Lindsey noted that the closure will allow the department to better utilize its resources throughout the city, which continues to experience a booming number of tourists at the heels of 2021 — PCB’s busiest year in its history.
“With this part of the beach being shut down overnight, we can better spread our resources out to all parts of the city,” Lindsey wrote. “We only have so many officers on patrol and dispersing this crowd through a temporary overnight beach closure helps.
“It is very important for the safety of all our locals, visitors and public safety personnel. On any given day, there may be more than 100,000 people in the city. Safety is our No. 1 priority.”