Palm Springs Copes With Life After the Party’s Over
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) _ They rousted the rowdies and made the city safe for spring break, but merchants are finding it doesn’t always pay to be a party pooper.
For 40 years, this desert oasis east of Los Angeles endured an Easter week invasion of student revelers who cruised Palm Canyon Drive, got drunk in the streets and wore the bare minimum.
It also profited. The students filled hotels and spent enough to carry T- shirt shops for most of the year.
But beginning in the 1980s the students began pushing Palm Springs’ tolerance for gridlock, street fights, drugs and drunkenness.
In 1991, then-Mayor Sonny Bono and the city council outlawed G-string thongs, water-gun fights and driving on Palm Canyon Drive.
The city set up a farmers market, arts and crafts shows and a talent contest. And it encouraged students to head east to Lake Havasu to party.
″This is supposed to be our season, and it used to be the town would pretty much run full this week,″ said Eric Langmann, president of the Palm Springs Hotel Association. Business at Langmann’s Travelodge is down about half from last year’s 60 percent occupancy, he said.
″The last three years have been downhill, but this is the worst year yet,″ said Shahia Shalizi, a T-shirt shop owner.
″I think I’m going to have to open a store at Havasu,″ said Diane Biggs, who owns a chain of bikini shops.
But Julie Baumer, the city’s director of marketing and promotion, said the crackdown has prompted families to return to the city.
Police Chief Dion Burnett said the department issued just 259 citations during the first half of the 10-day break, down from about 7,000 for the 10- day period in previous years.
Some students came anyway, only to be turned off by the quiet.
″I could tell the minute I drove into town Friday night that something was different,″ said Juliana Gaulden, a 23-year-old student at San Diego State University.
″I understand they wanted to put restrictions on it, but they’ve gone overboard. Obviously we’re not welcome here anymore,″ she said.