State agents to target underage Spring Break drinkers

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Though Spring Break is where the boys mostly aren't these days, state agents warn they'll still enforce drinking laws for the under-21 crowd here this month.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation said Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco agents made misdemeanor arrests statewide for illegal alcohol possession and purchase during their March 2011 initiative. They reported 1,653 arrests in Panama City; 92 in Daytona Beach; 48 in Fort Lauderdale; 11 in Fort Myers and 32 in Miami.

This year, agents will partner with local police in those cities as well as in Fort Pierce, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Pensacola and Tallahassee, DBPR spokeswoman Sandi Copes Poreda said Wednesday.

Broward County businesses can expect around 12,000 college-age visitors, who began their eight-week season Feb. 24.

That's compared to about 350,000 students who visited annually until the mid-1980s, said Jessica Taylor, media relations director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Taylor said that since then, there was an active campaign by the bureau, which is funded by tourism taxes, to promote the region as more than a college destination and to shed images of partying mobs.

"We have more to offer year-round to art and culture fans, international visitors, conventioneers and families who may stay away from a Spring Break town," she said. Eleven million visitors spent $9 billion in Broward County last year, the bureau said.

Hard partiers may not be among those who visit lately.

"They're a different kind of Spring Breaker than we had then, that were throwing furniture from hotel windows," Taylor said. "Luxury hotels and top restaurants are here now."

Palm Beach County was never a big spring destination for the college crowd, said Maria Hayworth, publicist for the Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"That's because of the level of properties and the price point," Hayworth said. "Our visitors are families coming to visit grandparents or to stay at hotels."

Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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