Monday, April 13, 2009

Bacchus versus Stoic, on the beach in Florida …

   Among the contradictions of the American psyche that worm their way into land use law is the combination of, on one hand, an acceptance of even wild-eyed “individual expression” with, on the other, a puritan regulation of alcohol use.  This contradiction is playing out in a local controversy at Sunset Beach, a peninsula that is part of the city of Treasure Island near me on Florida’s Gulf coast.  

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    The beach is one of few in the area in which alcohol has been permitted.  This system of varied laws seems to be a good Tieboutian approach, under which government laws create a market:  those who want to avoid alcohol have many other options, while those who want to drink choose Sunset Beach.  One of the better results of the compromise is a famous beach bar and restaurant called Caddy’s, where patrons watch the sun set with sand under toes from pleasant beach tables.
    But the attraction of alcohol and beach-going is sometimes too much; residents have complained that this spring’s tourist season brought an overflow of cars (it’s a dead end peninsula, remember), drunks, and urination.  This unpleasant situation led to a proposal before the city council to at least temporarily ban drinking on the beach.
   But, at least for now, Bacchus holds the field.  Faced with much public opposition to the proposed change, the city council decided last week not to put the ban to a vote.  I suspect that this compromise may not hold.  Last call? …


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