As we head into the Labor Day weekend, there is a holiday tradition that's become a lightening rod of controversy – the issue of alcohol on the beaches.
For the past few holiday weekends, Mission Bay has been packed with people on inner tubes, air mattresses, and children’s pools. Basically anything that can float. This will be the first holiday since the city council banned “Floatopia” parties.
But there is still a way people can get away with it this weekend.
"Now, clearly under the new ordinance, someone can still drink on a boat or any vessel that has been designed to be powered by an oar, paddle, sail or any sort of power," said Capt. Christopher Ball.
The keyword there is designed.
While the huge parties are likely over, people can still drink on floating vessels such as rafts and inflatable kayaks as long as those crafts are designed to be used with an oar or paddle. Police say because of this, they don't expect nearly the same crowds.
It was three years ago, September 3, 2007, when a Labor Day clash between police and a Pacific Beach crowd became the tipping point in banning alcohol on city beaches. That led to the so-called Floatopia parties, which have now been basically banned, and a huge increase of crowds at Kate Sessions Park, where the council is expected to consider a ban very soon.
But the issue is not going away.
"Well, we think it's really silly that the city council is doing this sort of thing. I mean clearly there's an unmet need out there. They've created special permits for picnic and catering groups, but they leave the individual out of the loop," said FreePB.org spokesperson Rob Rynearson.
People that do have floatable vessels designed for oars or paddles will not be considered boats, and are therefore not subject to boating under the influence laws.
For the people that will be on motorized boats this weekend, the coast guard wants to remind the public that operating a boat under the influence can get jail time and up to $100,000 in fines.