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A Brief History Of The San Diego Booze Ban

4th of July San Diego
Chris Cantore
Written by Chris Cantore

Once upon a time in San Diego, boozing was permitted on the beach. So much so, every major holiday, millions of San Diegans (and tourists) would descend upon local beaches to party beyond hearty. We’re talking beer bongs, alcohol ice luges, kegs in the sand, couches, and throngs of drunk, half-naked bodies littering local beaches. With Pacific Beach and Mission Beach being the epicenter, it was a divine time in San Diego history, or a complete shit-show, depending on how you looked at it.

Photo Credit: PAUL HANSEN

For those who partied responsibly in the 80s and 90s, there wasn’t a better time to be alive — especially for twenty somethings.  However, as the party years pressed on (and tourists outnumbered locals,) alcohol-induced fights, disorderly conduct, and extreme public intoxication became the norm after the turn of the century.

Photo Credit: LisaMarieSD 2008

Things really came to a head in 2007, on Labor Day, when SDPD responded to reports of fighting on Oceanfront Walk at Reed Street in Pacific Beach.  Upon arrival, cops were pelted with batteries, beer bottles and garbage by the crowd (which had grown to several hundred.) The melee extended onto the beach.

Calling for helicopters and backup in riot gear, 17 arrests were made and Mission Blvd was closed for part of the evening. Following the incident, District 2 City Councilman / current San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer condemned the situation and implemented a one-year trial alcohol ban. A year later, after heated debates from both sides, San Diego voted in favor of Proposition D, permanently banning alcohol from the beach.


As the alcohol ban went into effect, committed revelers found a loop-hole in the measure that made it legal to drink on floating devices in the water. Thus, Floatopia was born with thousands of party goers consuming adult beverages on rafts, kayaks and other floatation devices (as seen below at Sail Bay in Crown Point.)

Despite the valiant efforts of the Floatopians, the same complaints surrounding public intoxication resurfaced and the booze ban was extended into the water, 3 miles from San Diego’s shoreline. Womp, Womp. While critics complain of a loss of San Diego tradition for responsible partiers (as well as a loss of tourism revenue for local businesses,) supporters boast of a much cleaner, safer beach community for their families and friends. Also, our homies at Surfrider have a lot less work to do the morning after the mess.

Now, for those taking their chances at the beach with Koozie-covered beers or vodka-filled water bottles, if caught, you will get served with a misdemeanor offense.

Otherwise, we’ll see YEW in Baja…

About the author

Chris Cantore

Chris Cantore

Morning Radio Guy turned Digital Media Dude.
Host of The Cantore Show podcast.
Be Cool, No Kooks.