Tourists still turn out for Labor Day weekend on Panama City Beach

Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 5:53 PM CDT
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At Margaritaville in Panama City Beach there was already a line of customers waiting to eat before the restaurant even opened this Labor Day.

“Oh it’s mostly out-of-towners - our feeder markets from Tennessee, Alabama, we’re seeing Illinois. They’re from all over the place,” said Jimmy Martin, general manager.

Despite COVID-19 and the postponement of Gulf Coast Jam, Martin said sales this Labor Day weekend were better than last year’s.

“I think Gulf Coast Jam not necessarily brings families, it brings more of the couples and or groups, where this now is more about families celebrating the long weekend. So we’re seeing groups fours and sixes and eights versus parties of twos and fours,” he said, and when those groups weren’t eating, many were swimming.

“Friday and Saturday were super busy, maybe rivaling Fourth of July crowds, [it was] about as packed as I’ve seen it,” said Wil Spivey, beach safety director for Panama City Beach.

Battalion Chief Tim Smith said the city’s fire department received about 90 calls over the weekend, on par with previous years, “and that’s a pretty equal split between beach safety calls, motor vehicle accidents, general medical calls.”

But with the influx of tourists also comes the exodus.

“Well most of the hotels and condos have about the same time you’ve got to check out, so that means that everybody’s on the road at the same time,” said Smith.

Spivey said thanks to good conditions there were few water rescues. Instead, most of their calls were heat-related.

“Just want to make sure people staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, seeking shade which is in short supply on the beach. So just doing your best to avoid the sun or protect yourself from it and definitely stay hydrated,” said Spivey.

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