Temporary alcohol ban for Silver Strand

by Staff

In case you haven’t noticed, something is different at the beach this year.

Gone are the days of crazy parties and drunken festivals. No more keg stands or homemade beer bongs. No more brawls in Pacific Beach and no more booze.

That is the case for all San Diego beaches since January 2008, except for just one: Silver Strand State Beach.

In the year after the Labor Day squabble in P.B., all but one public beach in San Diego County has been off-limits for drinkers during the summer months. Now, in the wake of this year’s Independence Day stabbing near Silver Strand State Beach, a temporary ban on alcohol was in effect Aug. 29 through Sept. 1 at the state-run Coronado beach.

Proponents of the ban said it led to a safer and more pleasant Labor Day holiday while opponents say the ban restricts individual freedom.

One of those opponents is Graham Smith, manager of Sun Diego, a surf shop located in Mission Beach.

Smith said the one-year trial ban on San Diego city beaches may have reduced drinking on the beach, but its impact reaches far beyond its intended purpose. Namely, it affects local businesses like his own. He is against all of the beach alcohol bans imposed within the county this year, noting that the fiscal impact felt by businesses does more harm to the community than the restrictions on alcohol do good.

Smith has managed the store for two and a half years. Familiar with the business in that particular, Smith has noticed recent changes in his customers.

“The foot traffic is down into the location,” Smith said. “I think the same people that came before are still coming like all the families and people coming from Arizona and all the Spring Breakers, but I think the kids that wanted to party are not coming here anymore.”

Smith estimated that the number of “partiers” walking into his store has dropped by about 25 percent.

The reduction in clientele, he said, means less money for his store, because a big part of Sun Diego’s business traditionally came from people who partied on the beach.

“They’d get a couple beers in them or whatever and then it’s like, ‘Well, let’s go spend some money,'” he said.

With the alcohol ban coinciding with a slow economy nationwide, Smith said it’s tough to pinpoint the cause of San Diego’s reduction in clients, but he suspects the ban has played a significant role.

He added that the one thing he does know, however, is that the crowds were noticeably smaller at the beach this year.

Whether those “partiers” have a place to drink is the last thing that comes to mind for many residents of the Coronado Cays, which is near Silver Strand.

After the stabbing in his community over the recent Fourth of July holiday weekend, the general manager of the Coronado Cays Homeowners Association, Larry Peterson, works daily to build support for a permanent ban of alcohol at Silver Strand State Beach.

Peterson said he’s not necessarily anti-alcohol, but he just doesn’t like that the state-run beach is now, and was on July 4, the county’s only alcohol friendly outlet.

“Around 2 o’clock in the morning that Strand was backed up with all kinds of vehicles people wanting to get into the beach,” Peterson said.

The beach parking lot, Peterson said, had completely filled up by 6:45 a.m., so traffic began being directed into the Cays. Within a couple hours, all available space in the Cays disappeared.

“I walked the beach and personally saw a lot of people consuming alcohol,” Peterson said.

He added that the beach police were very busy dealing with the crowd.

“We had no assistance from the City of Coronado police because they were all down at the parade down in the village. So basically, our traffic was controlled by our employees down at the homeowners association,” Peterson said.

After the parade and fireworks, Peterson was notified that there was a stabbing in front of one home inside the Cays. Neither the victim nor the aggressor was a resident of the Cays.

The interruption of peace by outsiders prompted Peterson to take a stance on the issue, and since alcohol was already banned on all other beaches in the county, he rallied others in the community to urge the California State Parks to impose a permanent ban at Silver Strand as well.

“It was very clear,” Peterson said. “We have never had a problem like this.”

Peterson has gathered about 700 signatures since beginning an official petition. His aim, however, is not to demonize those who drink on the beach. Had his local beach not been the only one allowing alcohol, he said he might have considered a different approach.

Lauren Miesse, a 20-year-old San Diego State nursing student and waitress at Canes Bar & Grill, has noticed a completely different beach atmosphere since the ban was imposed.

“I think they’re a lot more strict and it’s easier to get caught,” Miesse said.

Miesse said she knows two minors who have been cited for possession of alcohol this summer.

“It’s a lot worse for underage people,” she added.

Though she holds distaste for the ban, she said it appears to have done its job in reducing drinking there altogether. She also said, however, that there have been fewer people at the beach.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email