Panama City Introduces Downtown Social District Permitting Public Alcohol Consumption within Set Boundaries

by Janet Pattison

PANAMA CITY, FL — In a move aimed at fostering a vibrant social environment, Panama City authorities have given the green light to the Downtown Panama City Social District (DPCSD), allowing residents and visitors to indulge in limited alcohol consumption within specific boundaries. Residents are concerned this goes against the family friendly atmosphere they have worked to achieve in the downtown Panama City area.

The City's unified Land Development Code, Section 104-68, has been amended to permit the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages within the demarcated DPCSD area, as long as it adheres to the prescribed regulations. An "Approved Container," defined as a plastic, paper, or composite container carrying the Downtown Improvement Board logo or an approved adhesive sticker, allows individuals to consume alcoholic beverages, provided the container holds a volume not exceeding 16 ounces. The approval of containers falls under the jurisdiction of the Downtown Improvement Board.

As delineated by city ordinances, the Downtown Panama City Social District encompasses the Harrison Ave downtown business area, excluding public parks within the boundaries and unimproved properties without express permission from the property owner.

Under the new regulations, individuals obtaining alcoholic beverages legally from licensed premises within the DPCSD are permitted to consume them within the area between 10 am to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays only. However, strict limitations apply—individuals are restricted to the possession and consumption of a maximum of two Approved Containers at any given time.

To ensure compliance and deter violations, the City has outlined fines for infringements of these regulations. For a first offense, individuals or businesses may face a civil fine of $250. Subsequent violations within six months can result in fines of $500, while three or more violations within a year may lead to a civil fine of $1,000.

The implementation of the Downtown Panama City Social District aligns with Florida Statutes Section 561.20(2)(b) and is seen as a measure to promote responsible social interaction within designated areas of the city.

While the initiative has garnered support for its potential to invigorate the social scene and local businesses, officials emphasize the importance of responsible consumption and adherence to outlined regulations to maintain the integrity of the district. This new ordinance will expire in 6 months unless extended by the City Commissioners.