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Fort Lauderdale is divided over campaign to lure students


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- This town has a science museum and a beautiful new beach. But it has become too stodgy of late and needs an infusion of college students.

So say entrepreneurs who are inviting thousands of Spring Breakers back to Fort Lauderdale.

"Now most of the strong anti-Spring Break opponents have been removed from office," said a letter from Concierge Consultants, the group that organized the movement. "The majority of businesses and residents of Broward want Spring Breakers back."

The letter is part of a welcome-back booklet sent to 4,321 fraternities, 2,329 sororities and 3,679 travel agents in 378 U.S. cities. Concierge Consultants supplies concierge services to hotels around the county.

Group spokesman Don Meyer said the city's economy has gone into decline since Spring Breakers forsook Fort Lauderdale for Daytona Beach.

Attitudes about Spring Break have turned around, Mr. Meyer said, since its opponents left office.

"Let us go after the market we appeal to. The whole mood in the town has changed," Mr. Meyer said.

"What?!!" exclaimed Anne Martone, director of the Broward County Hotel and Motel Association, when told of the booklet.

Any attempt to bring back the bad old days would be irresponsible and unconscionable, she said. "The industry and the community have spent millions of dollars moving away from the Spring Break image."

The 10-page booklet, entitled "Spring Break 1993" and consisting mostly of ads for clubs, restaurants and hotels, does bring back images of contests that lured 350,000 students a year to the beach.

The Candy Store, a Spring Break legend in its time, is offering belly-flop, beer chugging, wet T-shirt and teenie-weenie bikini contests.

And the Baja Beach Club boasts, "Ladies drink free seven nights a week 'till 9 p.m.!!"

"Oh, ugh," said Francine Mason, spokeswoman for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Not again."

Ms. Mason said college students are welcome. But not in droves, and not if they come with bad manners.

Of Mr. Meyer and his group, Ms. Mason said: "They're looking for the drink till you drop crowd, but this resurrection has seen its day. 'Where The Boys Are' was filmed 30 years ago. We market it as nostalgia."

Mayor Jim Naugle said Spring Break will never return.

"Now we have an ordinance that prohibits open containers of alcohol on the beach. They don't have that in Daytona," he said.

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