Naples officials on the lookout for on-street drinking during St. Patty's parade

In this 2012 file photo, five-year-old Elyse Jones, of Naples, plugs her ears at the loudness of the Barron Collier High School Marching Band during the annual St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Naples.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

In this 2012 file photo, five-year-old Elyse Jones, of Naples, plugs her ears at the loudness of the Barron Collier High School Marching Band during the annual St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Naples.

— There will be plenty of craic — Irish slang for a good time — during Naples’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, but police will be keeping an eye out for violations of the city’s public alcohol consumption laws.

The three-hour parade drew thousands of attendees last year who bought booze from licensed and unlicensed vendors selling on city sidewalks. Many then drank it on the street.

At least one City Council members said the event’s two-alcohol related arrests revealed a problem.

“I understand everyone wants to have a good time, and I’m not saying everyone is falling down on the street,” Councilwoman Dee Sulick said at a meeting last year, “but we have an ordinance and expect it to be followed.”

The city’s ordinance states no open containers are allowed on streets and sidewalks. Only those vendors who have been approved by the state and city to sell alcohol outside their establishments may do so. Last year, a few bars with liquor licenses were selling to passers-by illegally, City Manager Bill Moss said.

“Some restaurants had taken the liberty to move their bars to the sidewalks,” he said. “We’re going to enforce that. Officers will be specifically looking for that, which isn’t permitted ever or as a special event.”

Moss said stopping sidewalk sippers like those Sulick observed becomes more tricky given the number of police officers on duty and the number of people in attendance.

“Most bars and restaurants can’t allow their (patrons) to leave their property with a drink,” Moss said. “That liability falls back to the restaurant. Someone on the plaza might have a drink and walk down the street, but that’s typically not an issue.”

Lise Sundrla, executive director of the Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District, said the parade typically draws between 30,000 and 40,000 people each year. Events such as the Christmas parade draw as many people, but alcohol consumption is not as prevalent, Moss said.

Lt. John Barkley, spokesman for the Naples Police Department, said additional officers will staff the parade and more will patrol the street at night as the drinking continues. Both on street drinking and selling of alcohol will be enforced, Barkley said.

“We’ll take care of all that,” he said. “We always enforce that rule.”

Hotelier Phil McCabe rents out Sugden Plaza each year and serves alcohol there under a state license approved by the city and coupled with a city special events permit.

But as soon as a customer crosses the street with their drink, they’re violating the city’s open container laws.

“I go and start this process six months in advance to get all these permits,” McCabe said.

The Naples and the Marco Island area tied for second place nationally in 2010 for its high number of heavy drinkers according to 2010 health risk data from the Centers of Disease Control and prevention. But council members and city staff agreed last year that heavy drinking is not a problem for the city generally and that the crowd that gathers to drink green booze in honor of St. Patrick isn’t causing much of a ruckus.

“It could be a problem in a different town, a college town,” Moss said. “But with the clientele that typically attend these events, there hasn’t been a problem. It doesn’t mean there won’t be, but there hasn’t been.”

The 35th annual parade, put on by the Naples St. Patrick Foundation Inc., begins at 11 a.m. at St. Ann’s Church. It will take its usual path north on Third Street South then east on Fifth Avenue South before turning right onto Eighth Street South, ending at Crayton Cove.

A flag raising ceremony will be held beforehand, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in Crayton Cove.

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