Out-of-state visitors head to reopened beaches

Beachgoers relax Saturday afternoon in Panama City Beach.
Beachgoers relax Saturday afternoon in Panama City Beach.(WJHG)
Published: May. 2, 2020 at 10:30 PM CDT
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You don't need to walk far on a beautiful day in Panama City Beach to meet people from out of town and out of state.

Now that the beach is open, Saturday was no different (than normal circumstances, at least).

"It's something different," Chicago native Michael Weber said. "Something better than what we were in."

"In Georgia, we’ve been quarantined for four weeks, six weeks and it just felt good to finally get out and do something,” Amanda Peevy of Newnan, Georgia agreed.

Georgia, Alabama, New York, and Massachusetts plates sit parked across from Russell-Fields Pier. A survey of the first 50 cars tallied 15 out-of-state tags.

"Actually, I was hanging out with my family," Weber recalled. "We were like, 'we're going to go to Florida.' We just left at 10 o'clock Wednesday night."

​Some locals unhappy about the increase in visitors declined to speak on camera.

A statewide ban on vacation rentals is still in place. Hotels NewsChannel 7 has spoken to say they've received an increase mainly in calls rather than reservations. Visitors concur the parking lots indicate reservations trickling in at a modest rate.

"We were staying at the Boardwalk," Peevy said. "We got up this morning about six or seven, had to go do some running around and we didn't see nobody. It was like a ghost town. We went back to the beach and that's when we aw everybody."

Once at the beach, locally run and reopened businesses await.

"Wow. Just wow," said Chrissy McLaughlin, a local and owner of Hook'd Pier Bar & Grill and Huts on the Pier. "It has been great to see people just really happy to be released. We did reopen as soon as they started reopening for sunrise, sunset. Percentage-wise, it's a good four or five times. We get the sunset crowd all day now."

But what about that crowd? Did it feel safe?

"From what I've seen, yes," Peevy said.

"I ain't run across nothing bad," Peevy agreed. "Everything's been fun."

"I think people are being fairly respectful," McLaughlin added.

That's their opinion. As of May 1, being at the beach all day is also their right.

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