SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)–The closing of Walton County’s beaches shocked residents and tourists as they were driven off the beach. Now, many beach goers and restaurant owners are speaking out.
Typically, Walton County’s beaches are packed with tourists and residents during March. Now, that will no longer be the case.
“It’s sad and unfortunate but I think it’s better to be safe than sorry at this point,” said Steven Burt, a tourist from Maryland.
Small businesses and tourists are greatly impacted by the new ordinance. But many of them say they understand the decision.
“I think at this time it’s in our best interest to shut down the beaches,” said Thomas Gallion, the owner of Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar.
Gallion says they are closing down full-service dining and moving to to-go orders only. They believe this is in the best interest of the public.
“The quicker we get inside and contain this, the quicker we’ll be back out and get our economy rolling again,” Gallion said.
Neighboring storefronts are also taking action. Sunrise Coffee shop employees say they too think closing the beaches is best for public safety. The small business currently only allows one customer inside at a time.
“We want to accommodate but how can we accommodate if all the locals are sick?,” said Rayanne Sumners, a Barista.
Code enforcement could be seen driving on the beach shortly after the ordinance was passed; enforcing the new rule and directing people off the beach. Many younger tourists could be seen not listening.
“I understand that the younger generation is a little naive to the severity of it at this point and I do believe that these drastic measures have to be taken,” Burt said.
Residents and business’ agree, saying this is a time for the community to come together.
“Be grateful and thankful for whatever it is that you do have because this is an example of how that can change overnight,” said George Barnes, the General Manager of Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar.
Walton County beaches are closed effective today, March 19th.