Crab Island is known as Destin’s local hot spot and tourist attraction but right now, it’s creating turmoil between commercial business owners and Okaloosa County Commissioners.The Commissioners are talking about regulating that area.
Some say, Crab Island businesses are hurting business on the mainland, while also creating dangerous and unsafe conditions and contributing to underage drinking. But, the Crab Island business owners say, regulating open waters would kill their business, too.
“We have to regulate on Crab Island at this point. I think in order to allow a fair use of that facility to all member of the public that want to be there, it’s gotten to the point where we are going to have to do something,” said Nathan Boyles, Okaloosa County Commissioner.
“So, the idea here is to regulate the vendors so that off season they are not letting their floating barges just in our open water ways,” explained Carolyn Ketchel, Okaloosa County Commissioner. “Secondly, we want to regulate alcohol sales Because it’s effecting those who legitimately have sell that alcohol in Destin and have to apply for liquor licenses.”
Many Crab Island businesses found a statute loop hole and are “giving” away alcohol for free. So, they sell a non-alcoholic beverage then, the customer gets a free shot of liquor as a gift.
The Okaloosa County Sheriff says, this is causing rise in boating under the influence and underage drinking.
“There is no life guard out there or there is not one assigned there. We pulled 25 people out of the water just this weekend alone,” said Sheriff Larry Ashley, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
Safety on the water is major factor in why Commissioners are looking to regulate.
“From the Sheriff’s stand point, I just want it to be safe but, from a citizen who has lived here for a long time, I’d love no commercialization at Crab Island,” shared Sheriff Ashley.
There a two proposals on the table. Overall, the ordinance would prohibit overnight anchoring and the gifting of alcohol. The main difference in the ordinances is, the date of when it will be enforceable.
“I think the ordinances that are being proposed really aren’t satisfactory and I think that we will ultimately see that we will be playing wake-a-mole with the type of ordinances structure that we are attempting to put in place,” explained Commissioner Boyles.
Since it was only a public workshop, no action was taken by the board. The commissioners say they anticipate voting on an ordinance in the near future.
County staff was directed to make a few changes to the proposals. Then at the July 17th meeting, they will present the new drafted ordinance.