Is new panhandling ordinance really helping at Nights of Lights?

Ordinance went into effect in April, limits where, when people can panhandle

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Nights of Lights has been going on for about three weeks now in historic St. Augustine, with thousands of visitors coming into town for the event every night.

It’s an important time for local businesses, and this is the first holiday season in which the city has a panhandling ordinance in effect.

So far, people who work in the historic city have said they are pleased with what they’re seeing.
They said when you walk up and down the city’s busiest street, there aren’t nearly as many people out begging for money as there were this time last year.

In April, a new ordinance went into effect that limits where and when people can panhandle.

It’s something local business owners said was much needed and has helped tremendously.

That’s not to say that the issue is gone for good. As News4Jax walked down St. George Street Sunday afternoon, there were a handful of panhandlers out in the mix of tourists.

Still, local business owners said the ordinance has helped improve the look of the city, especially on the south end.

“The fact of the matter is, if someone (is) sitting out on the bench, (customers) don’t want to walk past and into your store,” said Robert Kovak, with Cigar Sale. “(It’s) just the reality.”

“The Plaza is the place where people and tourists don’t try to go by and admire the beautiful decorations that the city has, because mainly, there is a lot of panhandling. Not as bad as it was before, but we still have a lot of people,” said Consuelo Lippi, owner of the Panama Hat Company.

Lippi added that she used to close her hat shop at 9 p.m., especially during the busy holiday season, but now she shuts her store down at 6 p.m. because of issues related to the panhandling in the city. 

About the Authors: