Beachgoers give Fire Island booze ban mixed reviews

Joey Leone talks about the ban on liquor

Joey Leone talks about the ban on liquor on some Fire Island beaches while visiting near Ocean Beach on Fire Island, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (Credit: John Roca)

On the Fire Island National Seashore just west of Ocean Beach, young adults crowded the beach Saturday afternoon, encircling coolers filled with booze.

They came to drink and party, but this is the last weekend they'll be allowed to do so.

Beginning Friday, the federal government will prohibit alcohol consumption on two 300-foot-wide stretches of national seashore between the Islip communities of Atlantique, Robbins Rest and Corneille Estates/Summer Club.

Some weekenders are not happy about it.

"Look around you -- that's what people want to do," said Jared Berkey, 25, of Manhattan, motioning to the twenty-something men and women lounging in the sand, drinks in hand.

Berkey and his friends visit Fire Island about five times a summer, but they expect to come less often once the beaches run dry.

Drinking is already prohibited on town beaches, so weekend partyers often flock to the nearby national seashore to avoid fines up to $225.

Some beachgoers understand why the federal government is instituting the ban: largely to cut down on parties that leave beaches in disarray and littered with garbage.

"It's completely understandable that they do this, because there's trash all over the beach," said Jack Strang, 26, of Manhattan, who was lounging with friends on one of the national park beaches Saturday afternoon.

He said the pristine nature of Fire Island's beaches is the reason they go there and not somewhere closer to Manhattan, like Coney Island.

But Strang and his friends aren't convinced alcohol is the problem.

"They should regulate littering rather than regulating drinking," said Laura Patterson, 28, of Manhattan.

Patterson and Strang said they always bring a trash bag to clean up after themselves -- and others.

A little farther east, the crowds were larger, with beer cans replaced by bottles of vodka and tequila.

"People are still going to drink on the beach regardless," said David Mash, 26, of Manhattan, sitting under a large American flag stuck in the sand.

But not all weekenders were lamenting the ban.

"We probably drink too much as is, so this is good," said Joey Leone, 28, of Manhattan, who likes to party at Ocean Beach's bars and restaurants. "The nightlife here is enough."

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