PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — On Thursday morning, the Panama City Beach City Council decided to open the beaches within city limits.
The openings will be restricted though; only being a total of six hours per day.
After the passing of the ordinance, News 13 spoke with Police Chief Drew Whitman about how he and his agency will go about enforcing it.
The police have already been enforcing a completely closed beach rule since March 20 so Chief Whitman says this won’t be too different.
“We’re going to try to get out there and educate everybody kicking off Friday morning at six. The public will be able to go down from 6:00 – 9:00 in the morning. We’ll close the beach at nine and it’ll go again from 5:00 – 8:00 so they can go down there and watch the sunset,” Whitman said.
While the sands are free to roam, Whitman says they will still be encouraging the suggested CDC guidelines.
“We’re trying to encourage the residents to get outside and get some exercise, have a good time. Be respectful. No more than 10 people in a group. try to distance from other groups, six feet apart.”
According to the ordinance, someone in violation of the new restricted beach opening could be fined up to $500, booked into jail for no longer than 30 days or both.
“We’re going to have 20 people on the beach to start with forces. We’re going to take it serious. We’re getting help from our public works, our utilities and code enforcement to help out with this along with my law enforcement officers on the beach,” Whitman said.
Overall, Whitman is encouraging all to enjoy the sand during the allowed hours and follow the health guidelines put in place.
“Be safe, take care of each other and abide by the law so we can keep the beaches open for everybody.”
Starting Friday, April 24, Panama City Beach will be following the county and reopening from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. and then again from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. for limited use.
The ordinance prohibits groups larger than 10 and any commercial activity to encourage social distancing.