Open Container Bill Hits Gov. Scott's Desk

PANAMA CITY - A bill that could allow restaurant customers to leave a bar with alcohol is now sitting in the office of Governor Rick Scott.

Panama City Commissioners agreed that certain establishments in St. Andrews and Downtown Panama City should be able to exercise that right.

The bill has already been approved by the legislature and some business owners say this could solve many of their problems.

Maria Galvan has owned Maddie's La Casita restaurant in Downtown Panama City for 6 years and says alcohol has been an issue during special events.

"We do get busy and sell a lot of food and drinks and we do get a lot of upset customers because they don't get to take their drinks outside," said Galvan.

Galvan says when she first purchased her restaurant she had no idea customers couldn't take alcohol outside during festivities.

"In special events like this i thought you were able to because if they have beer outside then you can walk in and out with it," said Galvan.

However, a new bill could change this. The measure says some St. Andrews and Downtown restaurants will be allowed to let its customers leave the venue with open containers, but only during special events.

"Venues like mardi gras and bike week, where everybody's got a booth and set up, policing makes it kind of hard and people are less likely stop and have a drink if they have to stay there the whole time," said Eddie Batt, Shrimp Boat Restaurant General Manager.

Over the years, many merchants have been fined for allowing their customers to leave their establishment with alcohol.

"This is going to allow the restaurants to be able to sell alcohol, if it's permitted in the area for instance Friday Fest, Beer and Wine. So they can walk out with a beer and wine from an establishment that has a license and cruise the venue and enjoy themselves," said Dutch Sanger, Downtown Improvement Board Executive Director."

Downtown holds nearly 30 events a year and officials say if the bill passes it will mean big business.

Sanger said, "It's going to put less burden on the restaurants as far as trying to control and police at the doors and so forth with the amount of people walking out with stuff."

Governor Rick Scott now has 15 days to veto the bill or sign it.