NSB police spokesman on New Year's eve public drinking: 'If they see a violation they take action'
Public drinking was rampant during the New Year's celebration on New Year' eve on Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach as demonstrated by this couple in front of the Om Bar.
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- In a city led by a mayor who owns a wine bar, it shouldn't come as a surprise the tolerance for public drinking as was witnessed New Year's eve on Flagler Avenue.
But don't tell that to the police brass.
"If they see a violation they take action," police spokesman Lt. Mike Brouilette said Wednesday, "whether that is to write a ticket or make them pour out the alcohol.
Asked how many tickets were issued, he said he didn't have information readily available.
A review of the police department's 24-hour log, which NSBNews.net publishes every day, shows no ticketing for carrying an open container on New Year's eve and the overnight. It also shows no written warnings were issued either.
Being in possession of an open container, is a misdemeanor that carries a $103 fine, if convicted.
With a police-estimated crowd of 2,000 to ring in the New Year with fireworks that lasted less than 6 minutes, countless revelers openly drank from cups -- many of them clear plastic. The avenue was not closed to vehicles either, which made for a scary situation with people standing in the roadway while vehicles continues streaming in, even after the fireworks started.
After the fireworks, about two-thirds of the people headed for their own vehicles on the side streets with children in tow while revelers there to party openly drank on the street. Many of those families had dinner in the avenue's restaurants, including Clancy's Cantina, which was filled.
Several parents with little kids gave dirty looks to the drinkers as they scrambled to leave the street party.
The only action taken by the cops came after NSBNews.net approached them just east of the Om Bar where a couple was holding glass mugs with beer and asked about enforcement.
A cop walked over to them and told them they needed to take their beers back inside the bar. He then gave a stern talking to the doorman and walked off. That was it.
"I'm not surprised," a law enforcement administrator said, speaking on condition his name and police agency remain anonymous. "It doesn't look like any planning went into this. They should have had some more officers brought in to walk the beat. Direct eye contact is a strong deterrent."
He continued, "They should have had more police out there for an event with that many people. Glass mugs are something officers should know could be used as missiles. I'll bet their wasn't any DUI enforcement either. It's no different in Daytona. It's all about pushing the alcohol sales."
Police did not make any DUI stops that night or early the next morning, according to their log. Two officers were on Flagler Avenue, two others were on the mainland and a canine officer covered both.
Mayor Adam Barringer, who owns a wine bar on Third Avenue, has refused NSBNews.net's requests for comment. Barringer, who recently opened a second wine bar/restaurant in Maitland, has previously acknowledged he had a DUI when he was in his late teens.
Neither Vice Mayor Judy Reiker nor fellow commissioners Jack Grasty, Lynne Plaskett or Jim Hathaway, an announced candidate for the dist. 3 seat on the Volusia County Council for Southeast Volusia and greater Port Orange, would touch the issue of public drinking.
At least Hathaway responded with a return e-mail, even as he sidestepped the issue of public drinking: "I saw the fireworks from Inlet Shores, I thought it was a pretty good show, can't comment on the rest as I was asleep. J Hathaway...Happy New Year!"
City Manager Pam Brangaccio and Community Redevelopment Director Tony Otte also have refused to comment on the drinking or explain why the avenue wasn't closed to motor vehicles.
CRA funds paid for what was billed as "the Party's on Flagler" -- $6,500 for the fireworks shot from the east end of the avenue, and another $6,525 for the event itself -- a grand total of $13,250 in taxpayer money.
The New Year's bash was put on by the Merchants of Flagler Hospitality Group, headed by Elaine Stathakis, who manages the Om Bar.
Mayor Adam Barringer and the commissioners on Sept. 27, unanimously approved $62,125 in taxpayer supported CRA grants for a series of street festivals, the New Year's party being the most expensive at $13,250.She has repeatedly refused comment as has the bar's owner Mark Leone.
Brouillette said because the event was not sponsored by the city, the decision to close the avenue to traffic was up to the hospitality group, though he conceded police could have ordered it closed based on the size of the crowd.
This is not the first time NSBNews.net has captured public drinking during a night festival on Flagler.
During the "Smyrna-Ween Creepy Crawl" event on Halloween night, which also cost the taxpayers $6,525, attendance was abysmal with only a couple of hundred showing up at the Flagler bars, with patrons being allowed to walk in and out with beer and mixed drinks.
Beachside resident Deborah Dugas complained to the mayor and commissioners during the public participation segment at a subsequent commission meeting, asking what they were doing to curb the drinking. None of them answered her and she returned to her seat shaking her head in disgust.
Volusia County Council members reacted with disdain when contacted by NSBNews.net about the use of CRA-taxpayer funds for the New Year's eve party on Flagler.
"That's not what the CRA is supposed to be using the money for," said County Council member Joyce Cusack, a New Smyrna Beach native and DeLand resident. "It's supposed to be for blight, not parties and fireworks."
Volusia County Chairman Frank Bruno said, he, too, doesn't believe the CRA should be spending money to support the bars and was especially irritated about the drinking he saw on NSBNews.net's videos.
"It's a problem and it needs to be addressed," Bruno said. "We've had complaints about the drinking in Daytona as well for New Year's."
Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood did not return messages left with his secretary for comment on public drinking."
Previous coverage for "Show Me the Money: New Smyrna Beach"
NSBNews.net is Florida's first fully-online 24/7 Internet newspaper launched April 7, 2008, and based in New Smyrna Beach. It is led by award-winning journalist Henry Frederick and award-winning blogger Peter Mallory with emphasis on breaking news, news of record and investigative reporting here and across the Sunshine State.
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