Fox News host Sean Hannity now has some paper to frame on his office wall: The Panama City Beach City Council yesterday issued final approval of two ordinances designed to curb the madness that descends each March on the Florida panhandle town for spring break, City Clerk Holly J. White confirmed this afternoon in a brief chat with the Erik Wemple Blog. One of the laws will roll back the alcohol sales cutoff time from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. next March and the other will require ID for beach-based drinking. A third initiative to impose restriction on special events will undergo further study. (Initial approval of the measures occurred last month).
Make no question about it — these laws stem in large part from the spotlight that “Hannity” shone earlier this year on the drinking, drugging and sexing of spring break in Panama Beach City. Following a series of segments on the Fox News program about the situation, residents asked for action and Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen drew up a laundry list of measures to tame the annual festivities. In interviews with the Erik Wemple Blog over the past several months, area officials left no doubt that the cable-news host helped to set in motion a thorough review of spring break regulations.
In yesterday’s session, a prominent member of the Panama City Beach business community even said as much, though disapprovingly. “This would have not been an issue had it not been for Hannity and his, you know, I call it an assault on the beach,” said Sparky Sparkman, owner of Spinnaker Beach Club & Paradise Grill, as noted in AL.com. “College spring break was basically over when he did that, and he had a mission. He was on a ratings-seeking mission and he took advantage of us and blind-sided us.”
Blind-sided? Hannity & Co. brought a camera to the most public place in the world — a beach! — and turned it on. People saw what the camera recorded and pushed for change. That’s called democracy.
In a brief chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst said that Sparkman blamed Hannity for setting off “knee-jerk reactions and had us looking at certain things.” She also said that Hannity’s name came up at other moments in the proceedings. Of course it did.
The Erik Wemple Blog pledges to continue over-following this story.