R.I.P. spring break PCB?

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In the past this was the time of year when all along the sandy stretch from Mobile Bay to St. Andrews Bay, beach businesses were gearing up for the weeks of profits that would fill coffers depleted during the lean months of winter.
Air-brush t-shirt shops were stocked.
Scooter rentals were ready.
Refrigerated beer trucks were camped out in super-store parking lots.
Motels and condos were booked.
Hospitals were ready to treat everything from severe sunburn to broken bones from balcony falls.
And the forces of law and order were on alert.
Spring Break was coming.
Between the end of February and the last week in April, colleges east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes, turned millions of students loose on the land. High schools did the same.
Thousands of these young folks road-tripped to the Gulf Coast, where they cast off their winter garments along with their inhibitions.
That was what they were invited down to do.
Old hands can recall how, back in the 80s, coastal Tourist Development offices went all out to attract college students to their communities.  None, however, were more shameless in offering students a helping of hedonism than the  Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those beach boosters put inserts in college newspapers, colorful ads describing the delights that were  available and urging students to come on down and “play out your Spring Break fantasies.”
So naturally the students came.
And as Faust learned, when you make a deal with the devil, eventually the note comes due.
Last year was payback.
Shootings, fighting, trashed houses, and a sexual assault made the national headlines.     FoxNews, the go-to station for the parents of many Breakers, did an exposé and denounced the doings.
What followed was predictable. Businesses that cater to the “family” trade and year round residents demanded that local officials find a way to tone it down.  So, despite protests from “super clubs” and others in the “play out your Spring Break fantasies” trade, city councils and county commissioners acted.
This year a new day dawned. With new rules. So if you are thinking of going down to Panama City Beach, I’ll make it simple for you.
During March, don’t drink on the beach.
No more coolers, no more sit-on-the-sand-and-sip.
Underage or overage, makes no difference.  You will be arrested.
And while we are on the subject of arrests, they are increasing.  All (as in every one) of the counties and coastal communities along the Redneck Riviera have beefed-up law enforcement. They are patrolling the beaches as well as the highways, and hauling in violators.
Hauling in, as in taking you to the jail, booking you, taking a big hunk of time out of your Spring Break holiday, and leaving you with a record that might come back to haunt you.
Some resorts have hired their own security and are posting them at the walkovers to the beach.  Anyone attempting to take alcohol to the beach will be turned back or turned over to the sheriff. And that’s not all. Scooter rentals have been restricted and regulated.Clubs must close at 2 am instead of 4 am.
Students under 21 can’t enter an establishment that serves alcohol. No drinking in parking lots or parking there after adjacent businesses have closed.
The impact is already being felt.
According to the “trash-can-survey” clean-up crews are finding more water bottles than beer cans in the beach receptacles.
But is this because of the law, or because the beer drinkers are going elsewhere?
Initial reports indicate that rental reservations in Bay County (Panama City Beach) are down significantly, while other businesses that cater to students report a “drastic” decline in profits.  Hospitality workers are hurting. Financially, Spring Break 2016 is being declared “a bust.”
Meanwhile, the crowds at the super clubs are smaller, which is just what club owners argued would happen when they sued the city on the grounds that the alcohol ban restricted interstate commerce. Huh? Yep.  The clubs contend that since these kids cross state lines to buy and consume alcohol on the beach, laws to prevent this violate the commerce clause of the Constitution. Got it? The city and the clubs await a ruling.
Not that it matters, for this year, with the laws in place, students have taken to social media posting “Rest in Peace Panama City Beach” and suggesting other places to  go.
Where? When that same social media revealed that many were heading for the Baldwin County Coast, officials there put out the word that “if you bring Panama City  Beach chaos to Alabama ‘you’re going to jail.’”
According to my sources, they mean business. And that is where matters stand. In the next few weeks the crush will come and the new rules will be tested.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

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