Panama City Beach City Council to discuss unrestricted reopening of beach at special meeting

Florida Coronavirus News

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– The Panama City Beach City Council will meet a 9 a.m. on Thursday to discuss the unrestricted reopening of the beach.

“We want to have a conversation with the council and see what each person wants to do, what their mindset is,” said Panama City Beach Mayor Mark Sheldon.

Last week the council voted to reopen the beach for restricted hours. The restricted hours order will expire on Thursday. Mayor Sheldon said it is now possible to talk about the unrestricted reopening of the beach after what he called a soft opening.

“We had a good weekend so I do see that there’s an opportunity for us to do the right thing, but have a good conversation when we do that,” Mayor Sheldon said.

The decision will be made on Thursday morning although the Governor’s stay-at-home order will not expire until Thursday night.

“The goal is that we would hear from the Governor’s office prior to our meeting about the short term rentals and stay-at-home order,” Sheldon.

Mayor Sheldon said the council doesn’t want visitors to come to town, but guests from surrounding counties have already come to enjoy the beach.

“If it was going to be open for two or three hours we wanted to come down and spend two or three hours,” said Dothan, AL resident April Bales.

Some Bay County residents said they want the beaches completely reopened, but others fear it will draw in more guests.

“I think opening it all day and just not having any restrictions at all would probably fill our beaches up,” said Bay County resident, Kelly Barr.

Although social distancing is being enforced, the restricted hours have caused large crowds to come to the beach.

“We’re trying to limit times but those time then got really busy,” Sheldon said.

Mayor Sheldon said residents can always make their own decisions on whether to go to the beach or not.

“If you don’t want to go to the beach then by all means don’t go to the beach.” “But if you do and there’s an appetite from the other council folks to that then I want to make sure we’re all on the same page doing so,” Sheldon said.

Mayor Sheldon said residents are encouraged to call and email the council to have their voices heard. The city council is continually communicating with the Bay County Commission as these decisions are being made.

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