Panama City Beach expects a big Memorial Day weekend after vacation rental restrictions lifted


PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla (CBS)- Vacation rentals are no longer banned in several Florida Gulf Coast counties, including Bay County.

“We have almost 8,000 short-term rentals that are licensed here on Panama City Beach. So for them to be able to rent and have parody between hotels and motels is very important,” said Mayor Mark Sheldon of Panama City Beach.

This comes after county officials submitted a vacation rental safety plan to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

“Some of the things in the plan that we provided to the governor were hand-cleaning stations in common areas, distancing on pool decks, elevators, those types of things,” said Philip “Griff” Giffitts, Bay County Commissioner.

This major announcement comes just days ahead of an important economic weekend for the area.

“I anticipate Memorial Day weekend here in Panama City Beach to be busy by all means. One thing we’ve got to remember though is we want to keep our citizens safe,” said Mayor Sheldon. “We don’t want to deplete our shelves of supplies. So if you’re coming in from out of town, please, if you can bring your own supplies. We want to make sure we’re following social distancing guidelines and no groups larger than 10.”

Brittney Williams says her family missed out on $16,000 of revenue from their three vacation rentals during the ban.

“There’s people that have barely stayed alive and barely kept it together just from all of the hurricane [Hurricane Michael] and this was going to be the thing that was going to take so many people out,” said Williams.

She says her vacation rentals were an investment in her family’s future.

“There’s been unfairness, and no one has been able to explain the difference between hotels having zero restrictions to every restriction imaginable on individual condo owners,” said Williams.

Williams says she looks forward to finally renting out her properties this Memorial Day weekend.

Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Gulf and Franklin counties are also now allowed to reopen vacation short-term rentals.

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