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No Open Containers In Destin's Mid-Bay Regional Activity Center

Photo via Flickr// Moyan Brenn

This week the Okaloosa County Commission rejected a proposed ordinance to allow open containers for alcoholic beverages in the Mid-Bay Regional Activity Center in the Destin area.

The idea began initially in response to the creation of similar areas in the region that successfully allow open containers. These include the South Harbor Festive Market Place in the city of Destin, the Downtown Business and Entertainment District in Ft. Walton Beach, and in some parts of the city of Pensacola.

“This has been very divisive and I think that’s very disruptive to our community,” said Peter Bos, Chairman and CEO of Legendary Inc.

Bos originally asked the County to consider two possible configurations for a proposed open container area. In both versions, open containers would be allowed in the Destin Commons and associated areas as well as the Mid-Bay Marina and Yacht Club, and LuLu’s restaurant, which opened its doors on Monday.

In addition, a request was made to allow open containers to be carried within a linear park connecting the Commons area with the Marina and Lulu’s area.

But due to community response, Bos scaled back his request, “And since what started as a positive for the neighborhood has become so pretentious and misunderstood both my partner, Timber associates and myself withdraw our request to make Destin Commons a place where adults can walk around with an alcoholic beverage which I’m sure will thrill many of those in this room and sadden others. And, hopefully end this controversy.”

Left on the table was a request for open containers at the Legendary Marina complex, including Lulu’s Restaurant. Bos was noticeably moved as he spoke before a jam-packed room of Destin residents and community members on Tuesday. He says his only intention was to create a safe environment that locals and tourists alike could enjoy, “This neighborhood shopping, watching children in pop up fountains, outdoor environment envisioned has over the past month suddenly been perceived as ultimately turning into a Girls Gone Wild, Panama City environment that became a huge community dividing discussion. And, generated untold criticism of myself and Destin Commons, both of whom who have tried for many years to improve this community in which we live and love.”

Additional criticism of the proposal also comes from the Destin City Council and the Okaloosa County School Board citing the proximity to Destin Middle School.

County Commissioner Kelly Windes made the motion against the proposal. Windes says Bos’ partial withdrawal was commendable and even though two out three areas were taken off the table, Windes couldn’t ignore the overwhelming amount of calls and emails from the constituents in his district not in favor of the open container amendment in general, “I promise when I ran, and I’m obligated and intend to do so, to vote for what is in the best interest of most of the people most of the time in Okaloosa County. I’ll move to deny any amendment to allow open container of alcohol within the Mid-Bay Regional Activity Center.”

Commissioners voted 3-2 to reject Bos’ lingering proposal allowing open containers in what is referred to as the northern lobe in the Legendary Marina/Lulu’s area.

Commission Chairman Nathan Boyles and Commissioner Trey Goodwin voted against the dissent. Goodwin voiced several concerns and agreed that the designated open container areas are too close to the school. However, as one possible solution he suggested tailoring the open container hours to coincide with the school calendar year, “I heard from a lot of people, hundreds of people. What I am trying to do is to figure out if there’s a way to balance private property rights with public safety and public interest. I don’t know if there is but, I think the discussion is at least worth having.”

Other potential solutions were also addressed at the meeting, like the possible use of designated cups in open container areas. A strategy similar to what the city of FWB may be moving toward in the future. But, after Tuesday morning’s vote the issue is dead for now.