Booze banned on popular Peanut Island beaches

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Peanut yes, beer no.

Peanut Island visitors will soon be banned from drinking alcohol at the popular weekend spot. Palm Beach County administrators said Monday they are cracking down on the drinking, after complaints from island visitors and police.

Beginning May 18, visitors will be banned from drinking alcohol on the island unless they have a permit to use the county's paid campgrounds. Visitors who violate the rules could be ordered to appear in court and fined, said Eric Call, the county's Parks and Recreation Director.

The ban would only apply to those on land. Boaters anchored just offshore would be allowed to have alcohol onboard, Call said.

"We want people to enjoy themselves on boats," Call said. "As long as they are acting responsibly, that is fine."

The 86-acre island is operated by Palm Beach County and tucked between the Sailfish and Riviera Beach marinas, just south of the Blue Heron Bridge. The island and sandbar have become a popular getaway for boaters, drawing as many as 2,000 people on a typical weekend day.

But it has also become a sore spot for police. During a 2007 crackdown, police busted 19 kids for underage drinking and cited 23 boaters for violations.

The police surge came after two incidents at the island made their way to YouTube. The first showed a group of people capturing a protected spotted eagle ray, slicing off its tail and torturing it. The second video showed former Circuit Judge Richard Wennet commenting on the "nice breasticals" of a topless sunbather. "Where is law enforcement when you need them?" the judge said.

Last year, youths returning from a day of partying on the island insulted and then attacked several groups of people getting off an island water taxi.

As for the recent push, Call said his department has received "a lot of complaints from the island about some of the inappropriate behavior of those engaged in alcohol consumption."

Signs will be posted on the island this week, warning visitors about the new rules. Water taxi operators have also been asked not to take people to the island if they have alcohol with them, Call said.

Commissioner Karen Marcus, whose district includes part of the island, said she began pushing for the ban nine months ago, after receiving complaints from residents.

"There kept being issues on the island," Marcus said. "I was getting a lot of people saying, 'this used to be a family place and now it is turning over to people coming to get drunk.'"