The Sarasota County Commission opted not to take any action on the regulation of alcoholic beverages at county beaches and parks at a workshop Thursday morning in Sarasota.
After Siesta Key resident Donna Chen was killed by an allegedly drunken driver while jogging on Midnight Pass Road in early January, a debate has been sparked as to whether alcoholic beverages should be allowed on the beaches. Some members of the public are pushing for a countywide ban and that prompted the discussion at Tuesday’s workshop.
At the workshop, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight and his staff revealed Siesta Key beach statistics for 2011 that showed only 0.3% of the 2.4 million estimated beachgoers that year were arrested on alcohol related charges.
Knight said he was willing to work with county staff on any ordinance change the commission wanted to take, but explained it would violate constitutional rights to take away beachgoers’ keys and open their coolers.
“It becomes a gray area when we have to start searching coolers,” Knight said.
Commissioners asked Knight if his deputies could use any tools or modify any ordinances to further ramp up drinking issues on the beach without banning alcohol.
But Knight said there wasn’t much more his department could do, although he agreed more cameras on the beach would be useful.
“It’s not illegal to be intoxicated, but it’s illegal to be disorderly,” Knight said. “That’s the fine line we have to follow.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].