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"January 9, 2008, is a day that will live in infamy," says Terry Brickman, a beachgoer I talk to in early April about the day the beach booze ban went into effect.

I am surprised when Terry tells me he saw on radio station KGB's website that the Old Mission Bay Athletic Club (OMBAC) would be having an event with booze on the beach. "OMBAC gets to have beer at their event," he says. "That is complete bullshit. You can't make special rules for one company just because they're somehow in bed together. Either beer for everyone or nobody at all!"

I talk to Paul Willemssen, who has been in OMBAC for ten years and is an editor for a few of its publications. He is animated, excited about everything going on regarding the booze ban. He explains that when the people against it — a group called "Ban the Ban" — went out and got signatures, they were told they needed 30,000 signatures. "They got 45,000, but a sample of 1000 signatures indicated that only 60 percent were valid voters. Based on that, the petition didn't stand. It would've cost the 'Ban the Ban' people almost $150,000 to pay for the City to count all the votes, and based on the statistics, they probably wouldn't all pan out.

"A lot of people were worried about how this would affect tourism dollars. As part of OMBAC, we were worried about the thunderboat races, the summer music fest, our coming-out party — and our biggest fundraiser of the year, over-the-line. We not only provided alcohol at over-the-line, but many people brought it in coolers. We would've just stopped having it. But Councilman Kevin Faulconer came through for us."

I head out to the beaches to ask a few locals about the current ban.

A guy named Jack tells me, "I've just gotten a few devices to get around it. My wife has a thing called a 'wine rack,' which basically goes over her breasts and fills with wine, which she likes. I have a plastic flask that looks like a big cell phone. It's easy to get around the laws if you want."

A woman named Shirley is sunbathing with a friend and two kids. She tells me, "I'm glad the ban passed. I'm sick of drunk, obnoxious people on the beaches, cursing around my kids and acting stupid."

I talk to Eric Chris, co-owner of Guava Beach Bar and Grill in Mission Beach. He says, "I had mixed feelings about the beach ban, and quite frankly, I still do. As a responsible adult, I greatly enjoy being able to have a barbecue, play horseshoes, or just watch the sunset, enjoying a cold beer while sitting on the beaches. A few bad apples ruined it for the rest of the responsible adults. The vast majority of people that flocked to the beach to hang out and drink responsibly contributed greatly to sales at surf shops, clothing, grocery, and liquor stores and to restaurants and bars. We had hoped that our sales would increase, but they have not. Anyone can just look at the beaches and see that there are significantly less people coming down to hang out on the beach. Spring break? Plenty of families but virtually zero college students. We sold more food and had more families, but as a bar and grill, we also rely on beer-and-liquor sales to make ends meet, and those sales were way down from previous years. If less people come to the beach, that equates to lower sales. As a smaller venue, we depend on our summer months, May through September, to make our money."

When Willemssen tells me that Councilman Faulconer gave them the loophole to continue their events, I say, "So, OMBAC is getting special treatment?" He says, "Well…not really. I think the laws have always been in place, that you can't consume alcoholic beverages at certain parks."

He hands me pages and pages of legal documents. I see, in three pages, that from Adams Community Park to Marie Widman Memorial — and the 150 parks in between — all the parks are listed as places where it is illegal to drink. The new ban just adds some beach areas to that. Willemssen continues, "The ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control] wanted to keep our whole thing from happening. But Faulconer really helped us. And anyone can do what we're doing. They can apply for a permit and then have alcohol."

So, if a few people want to have a beach party, all they have to do is apply for a permit?

"I believe so. But it's a few hundred dollars. I doubt you and a few friends would want to pay that. And you'd still have to have a six-foot-high fence; that's a beer garden. No food prep can be done in that area. It has to be on grass or cement. And you have to be able to view inside the area. If there's a wedding reception, birthday party, whatever…I think they'll issue a permit. There is a law that says only one permit will be issued per area, and if two groups request it, a lottery system will be done."

I glance through more of this paperwork. One page states that it is "unlawful for any person to possess any keg containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed at any designated public area on the Fourth of July."

Willemssen laughs and says, "At our coming-out party, we have 200 kegs."

I call Councilman Kevin Faulconer's office. His assistant tells me that Faulconer will talk, but he's really busy. The assistant says, "You know, Faulconer didn't really do a lot here. I think the OMBAC people didn't understand a lot about the ban, and they just wanted someone to talk to about it. I'm sure all this praise for Faulconer isn't warranted. He just pointed out things already in the books."

When I talk to Faulconer, he confirms this.

Pacific Beach Bar and Grill's general manager, Roger Lee, has been a PB resident for 20 years. I ask him about the ban.

"I understand and appreciate the ban," he says, "because I have seen firsthand how out of control these beach parties can be. I also know that the problems are made by a few and that, in general, the vast majority are law-abiding people having drinks, having fun, and not causing trouble. It is unfortunate that it only takes a few to ruin it for everyone. Just the other day, I was talking to a customer who called everyone who drank at the beach a 'trouble-causing hooligan.' With 5000 people coming through our doors every week, all it takes is a couple people to cause trouble, and everyone is accusing you as a problematic business. The difference is that at the Grill, these disruptive customers are 86'd. At the beach, these troublemakers are taken to detox and returned the next day. Being drunk in public and causing trouble should have more consequences than going to jail overnight. Recently, the bars in PB have begun installing ID scanners that enable bar owners to 86 customers known to cause trouble and to share this information with each other. The belief is that if you cause a problem at one bar and are 86'd, there is a good chance you will be 86'd from a dozen other bars in PB. If there were stricter penalties in place, such as three days in jail or community service, that would discourage over-intoxication, and maybe there would be less alcohol-induced incidents, and the ban at the beach would not be necessary. I am a big opponent of the government telling people what they can and cannot do. The City needed to do something, but they overreacted. There were many great ideas out there, such as making drink zones or no alcohol on certain holidays. As a business owner, I like the ban because, potentially, business should be better. But…weighing my personal rights over a bigger profit? I would rather have my freedom. The ban hasn't affected the number of fights, or loitering."

Stan Holman was elected president of OMBAC in November 2007. He tells me, "I first heard that the San Diego City Council was considering a beach booze ban in early November. The measure was passed mid-November. On November 26, two of us met with city councilmember Kevin Faulconer and his staff, plus some key City personnel. Our intent was to explore the full effect of the ordinance on our fundraisers at the beach. I told them that the typical over-the-line attendee brings an ice chest with beer, a beach chair, an accessory bag, plus bats and balls if they're playing. Faulconer replied, 'That's all fine, except for the beer.' We saw OTL as…gone. More meetings took place, involving a good legal mind. All suggestions involved fencing any and all areas where alcohol could be consumed. A fourth meeting took place on January 14 that involved the San Diego director of Alcoholic Beverage Control, who stated that OMBAC would be under the microscope for violations. No ideas from either side worked. Our legal guy suggested that the City use the City's term, 'special event permit,' which was written into the law but not defined. The defined term allowed weddings, company picnics, and other gatherings to have alcohol legally while on city property. As an FYI, any organized gathering of people numbering 75 or more on city property requires a permit. If alcohol is sold, the event permit is required from the City, and a permit from Alcoholic Beverage Control is also required. Most people know the ban is for one year and have a 'wait and see' attitude."

The first event that OMBAC would have in which alcohol would be on the beach is the coming-out party on May 17. Holman says, "Our coming-out-party came about when Delmar Miller, one of the original club members, was taken prisoner during the Korean War. OMBAC members used to throw loose change into a large glass jug at the Pennant [bar] for him when he came home. When Delmar returned, he was handed the jar and asked what it was for. The club said it was for 'coming out of prison.' Delmar said, 'Let's throw a coming-out party.' When I joined the club, there was a gate charge with free beer once inside. Needless to say, it got out of hand, and we went to pay-as-you-go several years ago."

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Countryman Aug. 13, 2008 @ 2:24 p.m.

What do you know? Businesses being hurt by poorly-thought-out laws pushed through by grandstanding politicians and busybodies.

VOTE NO on the ban NOVEMBER 4th. Demand real solutions instead.

Reader- Thank you for actually investigating issues and publishing the truth. We could never expect this kind of thorough journalism from the U-T. They'd check someone's MySpace page for posts and then call it a day.


LAL Aug. 13, 2008 @ 3:14 p.m.

Responsible taxpaying citizens of San Diego wanted to vote on this last year. Council Member Kevin Faulconer, nice move wasting our time and tax dollars to give yourself an out on the "trial alcohol ban" you rushed through the City Council in a knee jerk reaction to keep everyone safe at our beaches, bays and parks. GET MOTIVATED San Diego. It is TIME TO TAKE BACK YOUR FREEDOM to enjoy a beverage of your choice at our beaches, bays and parks. REGISTER TO VOTE and get your friends to as well. WE CAN AND WILL send a clear message this November, we do not need the City Government to baby sit the citizens of San Diego. Write your City Council and let them know you are against the ban http://www.sandiego.gov/citycouncil/ and register to Vote against this ban http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm


Josh Board Aug. 13, 2008 @ 11:11 p.m.

countryman, thanks for the kind words on the story. I don't drink on the beach, and I'm against a booze ban. It's another example of having a law because of a few idiots. Sure, I understand that the police have a tough job, and when there are a lot of drunks, it might be hard to handle. But you know what? You can't then start passing laws that change how everyone else does things.

If this is the case, much like the cell phone while driving law...I'm sure the cops and DMV will release stats that say less accidents have happened now because of it. I'm sure the cops will say less fighting at the beach, public drunkness, etc etc etc. Okay, fine.

Well, let's start having laws where cars can't have stereos in them. Here's why.

When you drive, you are often distracted by putting a CD in the stereo. No different then the cell phone.

Or, in a beach parking lot....maybe you'll have your stereo too loud. Someone tells you to turn it down. Maybe someone comes by and says the music you're listening to sucks. You say something back. And, a fight breaks out. So...to solve both problems, how about we take stereos out of the cars. All the idiots that love these types of laws, can stick with their stupid "you're in a car to drive, not listen to the stereo" the way they did with the cell phone thing.

Before you know it, nobody will be allowed to do anything in public, because it could start a fight. Which, if I remember right, is why this beach booze thing happened.

Maybe holding your girlfriends hand while walking on the beach, can cause someone to say something. Pass a law. No handholding. Where does it end?

As much as I loved smoking cigars, I have no problem not being allowed to smoke them on the beach or in a park. Because, I understand people don't care for the smell. With alcohol, it is different.

And, there were already laws on the books for littering, or being drunk in public, etc.


tatas Aug. 14, 2008 @ 12:13 p.m.

Hopefully the people that drink on the beach will actually go out and vote against this ban. Unfortunately the people that show up at the polls are usually older family types that no longer have much of a social life, and therefore do not drink on the beach. These people make more money, pay more taxes, and have more influence over the politicians. It simple socioeconomics. Families with children from other places moved to the beaches during the housing boom and changed the fun, freewheeling culture the area has enjoyed for many years. Please do not take away any more of my rights, VOTE AGAINST THE BOOZE BAN!


velo333 Aug. 21, 2008 @ 1:37 p.m.

The Australians got the convicts, Canada got the French, and WE got the Puritans! Why? Because they got their teatotaling asses kicked out of England! The English wanted once again to be able to have organs in church, go to theater for plays, drink alcoholic beverages, and even DANCE! The leader of our New Puritans, Kevin Faulconer, should not forget what happened to Cromwell, the leader of the original Puritans: he lost his head literally, ending his political career. This November it will be time to show this pinch-faced minority the door. Let's get them off our beaches and send them back at least to New England, because I'm sure the citizens of Old England haven't forgotten what happened the first time around and don't want them either. If we are not successful, the next item on round-head Faulconer's agenda may be an ordinance requiring beachgoers to cover up from head to toe in black because Puritan families object to seeing girls in bikinis on the beach.


ScottDickman Oct. 27, 2008 @ 3:49 p.m.

Tourism. No one has ever complained that San Diego doesn’t have enough beaches. We already segregate one beach. People will always drink. San Diego will always be a major college town. When the students are unwinding durring a holiday break, the beach is the safest place for them to be. "I want to be perfectly clear about this," SDPD Captain Long stated, "and I've said it before. If we take the alcohol and remove it from the beach, it is my belief and my professional opinion that it will increase the number of people who attend house parties along the beach, and it's going to increase the number of people in the bars. Therefore, it will take some of the problem that we see on the beach, which doesn't even compare with the problems we already see inland, and it's going to make those problems worse." At least on the beach, the police have an ideal enforcement environment: they can approach whomever they want, without the need of a complaint or warrant.The police have tools at the beach that they do not have elsewhere…they can approach anyone & check their ID and also check their drink, for a few examples. They can observe 50, 60 people at once. KEEP OUR BEACHES SAFE & LET THEM TEAR UP OUR NEIGHBORHOODS INSTEAD ? DUI citations since the Beach Alcohol Ban have increased since the students have "vanished" from the beach( as the Union tribune editor is naive enough to believe) The student have, understandably, moved. A fact that most people have ignored. Alcohol at the Beach has never been a problem in the fall winter & spring and cannot possibly be a problem when you can barely see the next visitor. The Mayor does not agree with a year-round alcohol ban. The Police Chief did not personally endorse the “yes on prop D” . “These are the unfortunate trade-offs that occur when occur when a few trouble-makers ruin it for everyone else. The same rational that caused the PB Block Party to be canceled. Also a reason to cancel drinking at Petco Park & the stadium. How many more enjoyable activities would you allow to be canceled “because a few trouble-makers ruin it for everyone else.”?We are letting the troublemakers decide our fate. It was just revealed that Beach Ban advocates received over 85% of their donations from Beach front property owners who desire less people on THEIR beach. East coast property owners can build fences out into the water to keep the public out of their beaches. We all get caught at times voting for a candidate that is simply “the lesser of the evils”. Well, looking at the big picture, “No o Prop D” is the lesser of the evils.A Few of the Proposed Solutions Just as we already have a segregated beach, segregate alcohol v.s. family beaches.Ban on holidays or summer weekends when students, tourists and familys mix. Increasing San Diego Police Department’s Beach Team officers and/or hiring off-duty police as beach-specific neighborhood code compliance officers, Harsher penalties for irresponsible behavior


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