The repeal of Brevard County's "open-container" restrictions for alcoholic beverages is one step away from final approval.
County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously backed a request from Commissioner John Tobia to schedule a public hearing on his proposal to eliminate the restrictions on open containers in unincorporated parts of the county.
The proposed change would have no effect on open-container restrictions in Brevard's cities and towns — as it would apply only to areas of the county outside municipalities. Tobia said many of Brevard's larger municipalities have such restrictions. Tobia contends that the county's current ordinance related to open containers of alcoholic beverages is not needed because state statute already regulates "dangerous behavior" by people drinking alcoholic beverages, such as disorderly intoxication.
With the County Commission's unanimous approval Tuesday of what's known as "legislative intent" for Tobia's proposal, County Attorney Eden Bentley will work on the legal wording of the repeal measure. Bentley said a public hearing and final vote on Tobia's proposal will be scheduled sometime in March.
Under the current county ordinance that Tobia wants repealed, it is unlawful for anyone "to drink, consume or possess an open container of alcoholic beverage on the premises outside of or on any streets, alleys, sidewalks or parking areas open to the general public and located within 100 yards of any building containing an establishment open to the general public" within unincorporated Brevard. The ordinance exempts areas outside buildings "customarily used for residential purposes."
Violators of the ordinance could be charged with a misdemeanor. Tobia contends that "there is no rational reason for Brevard County to be more restrictive on such activity" than what's covered by state statute.
Commissioner Curt Smith said his only qualm about repealing the county ordinance on open containers was that there might be more litter, as people discard their empty cans or bottles of beer. County Commission Chair Rita Pritchett asked Smith: "You're thinking that when people get a little trashed, they do a little more trash?"
Tobia said littering also could happen with empty water bottles. In joining to support Tobia's proposal, Commissioner Bryan Lober said: "If all heck breaks loose, we can always wind it back."
Tobia said his current proposal on open containers is "just a logical next step" to his previous measure that commissioners approved in August to allow people to legally consume alcoholic beverages in many county-operated parks in unincorporated Brevard — something that previously was prohibited.
The county previously allowed the consumption of alcohol at its beaches, but not in its parks — unless a group requests a permit to use a park facility, such as a pavilion, and specifically indicates that alcohol will be consumed. Another part of Tobia's previously approved measure banned glass containers from Brevard's beaches as a way to reduce the risk of injury to residents and visitors from broken glass on its beaches.
Like his current proposal, Tobia's previous ordinance did not affect rules approved in Brevard's 16 cities and towns, which remain free to regulate alcohol in their parks within their jurisdictions, Additionally, beachside communities will be able to set their own rules for their beaches.
In some cities and towns, alcohol consumption is permitted in municipal-run parks, but not on their beaches.
Tobia's previous proposal excluded parks in County Commission Districts 1 and 2, at the requests of the district commissioners, Pritchett and Lober, respectively.
At the time, Lober asked that county parks in his commission district be excluded from the proposal, because he wanted to wait six to 12 months to see how the measure worked in other parts of the county. Lober's District 2 includes Avon by the Sea, Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Kennedy Space Center, Port Canaveral and Snug Harbor, as well as most of Merritt Island, and portions of Cocoa, Rockledge and Patrick Space Force Base.
Lober on Tuesday said he now would like his district included in the less-restrictive rules related to alcohol in county parks, and will introduce such a measure at an upcoming commission meeting.
Lober said he checked with parks and law enforcement officials, and was told Tobia's previous measure created no issues in the three districts where it is in effect.
Pritchett's District 1 includes Titusville; unincorporated North Brevard, including Canaveral Groves, Mims, Port St. John, Scottsmoor and Sharpes; and part of Cocoa.