Spring Break Forum: Answer to Cash vs. Chaos Conundrum? Management

by August 19, 2009 • 12 comments

Wednesday morning, the Panama City Beach TDC held a community forum for local residents to air out their opinions on the raucous season and to, together, find solutions to the polarizing can of worms. The comment of the morning came from Mr. Charles Hilton. The respected Mr. Hilton addressed the board directly and said, “If you are thinking of getting rid of anything in this economy, you’re out of your mind.” An attentive audience leaned in to listen as he went on. “It’s not about Spring Break, it’s just us screwing it up. We can’t afford to run off anyone, we need to learn how to manage Spring Break better. Spring Breakers are just people and we know how to manage people.”

His sentiment was repeated throughout the morning forum; Panama City Beach businesses and councils need to work together to better manage spring break. Peter Yesawich and Dr. Klages returned to reacquaint the community with their respective reports concluding that Spring Break has a negative impact on Panama City Beach’s image. The reports showed that Panama City Beach’s customer satisfaction during the month of March is 90.3% percent when talking to spring breakers but drops considerably to 56.5% when talking to guests who are visiting Panama City Beach in March but aren’t Spring Breakers. What this report underscored was the theme of the forum; people come to Panama City Beach during Spring Break and more will come after the airport, but the rowdy Spring Breakers need to be met with better management.

Several quotes were aimed at this notion. Mr. Jack Bishop acknowledged this by saying, “It’s not a question of whether we are in or out. We are in the business of Spring Break. But the crux of the problem is hosting. We host Spring Break. We just do a bad job of it.”

While there was lots of talk of management being the problem, there were just as many possible solutions spoken ranging from additional law enforcement and drinking ordinances to a better handling of public relations and a more targeted messaging campaign. One interesting comment came from Mr. Julian Bennet about creating a capacity/number of units to security ratio ordinance, meaning that a certain building capacity or certain number of units would require a certain number of security guards; i.e 1 guard every 25 units.

No final decisions were made, but it was clear that the future of Spring Break will not lie in marketing or advertising, but in Panama City Beach’s ability to manage the event properly.

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1 Gregg August 19, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Well not trying to solve negative but to rely on “Panama City Beach’s ability to manage the event properly” means we are going to be in the same spot for 2010 and going forward, I cannot imagine any improvement. Panama City cannot control the trash and litter much less a bunch of unruly Spring Breakers. If anyone thinks I am stretching the truth, just walk along Thomas Drive and the side streets going to the beach and look for yourself. Many of the places that are abandoned or even just for sale have trash everywhere, even just laying along Thomas Drive you find trash everywhere. I’m not sure even this ever gets picked up.
The city can pass all the ordnances they wish but if they are not enforced (and who believes they will if they do pass any) it is just a waste of time. Oh well we might as well forget this issue.

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2 Teddy Meeks August 19, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Here’s a thought for all those in charge in PCB…

Item number one on “managing” Spring Break needs to be a permanent ban on all free beer events on the beach during SB. These events have a snowball effect as the participants get more and more out of control as the night wears on. If they had to pay to drink, seems to me it would be logical SB’ers wouldn’t drink as much or get as intoxicated. I think everyone agrees that we can’t or don’t want to stop SB, so let’s get to proposing ideas for managing a more orderly Spring Break.

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3 Rayzmom August 25, 2009 at 7:08 am

Enforcement goes a long way. Stopping the free beer events is a great idea. Now let’s lock up the ones that are stopped for violations while walking/driving, instead of giving them a free pass to head back out on the strip. Last season a teenager…underage….bragged about being stopped three times by the same cop while driving under the influence. I understand that requires paperwork and manpower, but if PCB is not going to enforce the laws, why should the spring breakers bother to comply?
As an owner at the Summit, I have seen our security really clamp down on violations over the last few years. From drug dogs, to room inspections and higher age requirements, not to mention the *you mess up and you are out on the street pronto* mentality, we have seen fewer problems at our place.

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4 Richard Scott August 25, 2009 at 9:34 am

Spring Break is a necessity for the businesses. Properly managed it can be a positive period for all concerned. Properly Managed is the KEY. Enforcement, Enforcement, Enforcement. Bring back the Teen Court at PCB as a means of enforcement. It worked before, or it helped.

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5 Tony Johnson August 25, 2009 at 10:48 am

All comments, thus far seem to be right on! No more ALL YOU CAN DRINK FREE! – LADIES NIGHT DRINK FREE (they just pass the alcohol onto their friends) – FOAM PARTIES must GO! As for my stance: ANY business that supports any such activity or event is part of the problem. We can have Spring Break but let’s have it in goofd clean fun. I have seen our aqautic activitity programs incresae & the feedback is all positive. This is what we need to market: Our beaches not our party. Sure people will have a good time & some may will get out of hand, but we as a changing community need to stop the “Party Promotions” & target the “Paradise Promotions” that we are blessed to have. I have so nmany clients tell me that are beaches are much better than anywhere they have ever been to but because of the trash & drinking/partying problems we see, I have had many say they will not be back. P.S. CODE ENFORCENMENT needs to crack down hard on those businesses & property owners that do not take pride in their respected areas. It’s time to begin (it has in some areas already)make our beaches more attractive/appealing. The comments about Thomas Drive are correct -trash is a huge issue on & off the beach.

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6 Carolyn King August 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm

People keep talking about Spring Break in terms of income. If they are so interested in income I highly
agree with Mr. Meeks. Stop all the free beer and make the kids pay for it. What a concept additional income
for establishments and perhaps less intoxicatation on the streets.

Additionally the State of Florida should put deposits on all beer and soda bottles and cans. Wow another neat concept that just might cause less litter on the beaches. Someone would collect these things and turn them in for cash. Maybe even a student or two.

The powers that be need to allow Spring Breakers to become the ones responsible for their own behavior. I’m in favor of an ordinance that does not allow drinking outside of an establishment, or in a vehicle or games on the beach. If these laws are broken NO “Kangaroo Court.” let the law breakers pay a huge fine even if it’s via mom and dads credit card and require community clean up too. The higher the fine and the more work performed the sharper their memories will become. Some kids are fast learners.

Lets remember who is causing the problem here. It’s the kids not the condo owners. Don’t transfer additional cost to condo owners to provide extra security for their complexes because most if not all of them already pay a hefty price for additional security during Spring Break. Don’t fine them if the beach isn’t cleaned up in front of their complex. They are not the ones responsible for leaving the mess. What can be done is have condo complexes charge Spring Breakers for the arm bands they should be required to wear while on the property. Replacement ones should cost double. The extra income will help pay for beach clean up should fines continue to be levied against condo complexes.

Last but certainly not least condo owners and Management Companies need to know who’s renting their units. They need to adopt special rules during Spring Break that limit the number of renters permitted in each unit and increase the number of adults over 25 required for each person under 25 occuping the same unit. Don’t fill the unit to the max. If the unit holds 8 limit occupancy to six.

Management companies in particular who allow third parties to rent out units in their complexes need to spell out the special restructions during Spring Break that requires 2 adults over 25 for every 3 people under 25 who occupy a condo unit. Require they place the Spring Break Special Age restructions in LARGE print on their website also stating that names and ages will be required at check-in. Not meeting the special restructions will result in immediate eviction and loss of deposits.

It’s time the adults who run this city become smarter then the Spring Breakers. It’s time to make new and stricter ordinances and inforce them. It’s time to take back a city that is under seize during Spring Break.

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7 JeffM August 25, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Why do condo owners rent to spring breakers? The damage they wreak is costly to repair and, if not repaired, will quickly make the rental unit less desirable time. If more condo owners take their rental units off the rental program during spring break, can the “bottom feeders” (renters of run down units) absorb the added damage to their units when more kids pack themselves into fewer available units? I believe that owners of rental units have the collective power to make spring breakers go somewhere else, simply by not renting to them.

As owner of a rental unit at an upscale development near Pier Park, I cannot afford to rent to spring breakers. I won’t rent to spring breakers.

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8 InertiaChad November 24, 2009 at 7:27 pm

We actively promote spring break to Panama City Beach, Florida. The “missing link” I see in Florida vs. Texas is the lack of activities provided in PCB other than drinking. The community needs to pull together to offer affordable alternatives to simply getting wasted on the beach in front of the Summit. Any activities (like fishing or jet skis) are too expensive. Activities that seem “drinking focused” actually can take the emphasis off of the alcohol – pub crawls and party cruises to name a few. “Looking from the outside in” destinations that have effectively tried to get rid of college students end up ruining their ability to receive the lucrative repeat business from these college students as paying adults with families. Places would KILL for 250,000 college students spending several hundred dollars each on restaurants & clubs alone, not to mention gas stations, souvenirs, etc.

Not only is that short sighted – it’s hypocritical. We all have sons, daughters, nieces, grand kids, etc in college – and now they aren’t welcome in Panama City for Spring Break? That’s ridiculous. A group of 4 sorority girls from South Dakota hardly seems like a bunch likely to damage your condo unit. If you eliminate spring break – you eliminate the profits from those rentals. Guess what? That kills your profit & loss, and then you lose value on your property. This inhibits your ability to sell. Guess what happens then? Foreclosures. More property depreciation – there is a 100% cause & effect relationship here any realtor can demonstrate.

I truly believe that what needs to occur to have a more respectable spring break program is this:
*Activities that take the focus off drinking at an afforable rate
*Stringent enforcement of underage drinking & driving while intoxicated (set up check points for insurance and give everyone a breathaylzer and VOILA! – most of the garbage stays away.

Chad Hart
President
inertia Tours Inc.
http://www.inertiatours.com
chad@inertiatours.com
800 821 2176 x 1

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