TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - An open container ban could soon be enforced for a portion of Tybee Island.
Tybee City Council discussed the ban at Thursday night’s meeting. According to Councilwoman Nancy DeVetter, they discussed alcohol restrictions in direct response to a request from the police department due to both the increasing numbers and increasing escalation in their encounters. DeVetter says a large percentage of Tybee’s police encounters are alcohol-related. She said a shooting and two recent drownings were alcohol-related.
With a 3 to 2 vote council passed the first reading of a rule that would put restrictions on where and when people can have open containers of alcohol.
“This is a very tough decision. They’re going to have some people not happy with them either way," said City Manager Shawn Gillen.
City Manager Shawn Gillen says the ban, if passed in its next reading, would be for the areas south of 14th Street. Gillen says most of the bars are in this area and it’s where police are seeing an increase in alcohol-related encounters.
“70 to 80% of what they deal with is alcohol related. Some of it is beginning to be an increase in violence. We’re seeing more and more use of force.”
The version that passed Thursday night, Gillen says, would allow people to walk around with open containers up until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends.
“First it started with no smoking, now it’s a no alcohol ban, next all the buildings are going to have to be painted the same color. Where does it stop," said concerned resident Trey Conners.
Conners says he believes this ban will have an adverse effect on what the city is trying to do.
“When people find out they can’t take their alcohol out, what are they going to do? They’re going to consume it right then and there, the whole drink, and throw it in the trash. Well, now you’re pushing more intoxicated people out on the street. They’re power drinking.”
City officials say what they voted on Thursday night, also includes no alcohol on the beach from 14th Street to Alley 3, 24 hours a day.
“People come, they leave their garbage, they get drunk, they leave their cans and their cups and everything on the beach," said concerned resident Mack Kitchens.
Kitchens says he thinks the ban will be good for the community and that it’s worth a try.
“You gotta try it and see where it goes.”
Tybee’s mayor says the first reading was passed Thursday night. The next reading will be in November 12.
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According to the mayor, there will be a Zoom meeting on Monday, Oct. 26, between city staff and businesses. The public will be allowed to listen to the meeting.
One business says they’re nervous about the impact it will have on them, especially when social distancing is encouraged.
“You can get a drink to take with you, take your time and look at what Tybee is all about. All the business owners should have a word in this and be part of the vote," said Benny’s Tybee Tavern bartender Lee Fussell.
DeVetter said there is a lot of misinformation online about their vote Thursday night and she wanted to clear up any confusion.