Nearly six months after the fact, officialdom has spoken: Fox News host Sean Hannity was right.
The Panama City Beach City Council on Thursday voted in favor of three ordinances designed to curb the madness of spring break in the Florida panhandle jurisdiction, vindication for a series of springtime “Hannity” segments showing the various excesses of college students on the shoreline. Jon Stewart of the “Daily Show” led his entire demographic in derision of Hannity’s obsession with Panama City Beach’s twerking and drinking, yet the Fox News personality appears to be getting the last laugh.
As discussed in a previous blog item, the three ordinances would move alcohol sale cutoff hours from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. next March; require ID for people guzzling drinks on Sandy Gulf Beach; and place curbs on special events, which have a knack of generating mayhem. Jo Smith, executive secretary for the mayor and city manager, informs the Erik Wemple Blog that the ordinances on special events and beach IDs received unanimous votes. The change in cutoff hours secured a majority vote, with Vice-Mayor Rick Russell voting against the measure.
In a quick interview with the Erik Wemple Blog, Russell said his rationale for opposing the booze-hours rollback stemmed from discussions with the owners of motels and hotels in town. If the bars close at 2 a.m., says Russell, they turn revelers “loose when they still have some party life, so they’ll come back to the motels and hotels and maybe get a little rambunctious,” says Russell, who who pairs ownership of Bug-A-Way Pest Control with his city council obligations. Perhaps “Hannity” could invite Russell to debate that matter on air.
The various sources in Panama City Beach consulted by this blog have agreed that the spotlight from “Hannity” pushed local residents and lawmakers to take action in preparation for Spring Break 2015. Public safety hazards stemming from all the partying are well documented. When asked his opinion on Hannity’s spring-break investigation, Russell responded, “I didn’t think it did us any good but if you were to go to any resort area during spring break during certain holidays, I’m sure you could find same thing going on there as you could find here.”
The changes to Panama City Beach rules and regulations don’t take effect just yet, as they must undergo a public hearing; then the city council will consider adopting them, noted Smith. The Erik Wemple Blog will stay on this story.