It’s doubtful that Folly Beach’s beer ban is causing an uptick in traffic on Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms, but it could be having some impact.
People who used to drive to Folly Beach from Columbia and Orangeburg are coming to the Isle of Palms now because it’s closer, according to Cole Thomas, assistant manager at Isle of Palms County Park.
“Even people from Mount Pleasant were driving to Folly Beach before, and now don’t have a reason to,” Cole said Sunday. “I think people are just coming to the beach that is most convenient to them now, as opposed to going the extra distance to get to the beach where you could legally drink.”
Folly Beach outlawed drinking on the beach after a brawl that involved too much beer last July 4. Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms also don’t allow drinking on the beach.
Traffic around all the local beaches was flowing smoothly Sunday, after some back-ups Saturday.
“We had a little bit of a line,” Cole said. “The (IOP) connector was not really bad (Sunday). Yesterday, however, was a little crazy.”
A wreck on the Mount Pleasant side of the connector Saturday afternoon backed up traffic coming onto the island. At about the same time, a hard rain for five to 10 minutes caused a mass exodus from the beach, backing up traffic on the connector leaving the island.
Even so, traffic this weekend wasn’t nearly as bad as it was on Memorial Day weekend, when record crowds created a gridlock that ensared drivers for up to three hours.
Despite the alcohol ban, Folly Beach drew a crowd for the July 4th weekend. Traffic on and off the island was steady, with no major congestion, Public Safety Director Dennis Brown said.
He also pointed out that this weekend was much quieter than last year.
“It’s night and day,” Brown said. “I’m seeing more families than I have in the two and a half years I’ve been here.”
Some business owners complained to a reporter recently that it’s been too quiet since beer on the beach was banned.
Also, this was the first weekend Folly Beach County Park had been open in nearly two years, although it’s not clear whether the park drew many extra visitors to the island, Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said.
“It may have just spread them out more,” he said.
The park had been closed since Hurricane Irene washed away much of the beach in August 2011. A small concession stand and outdoor showers are in place, although the main attractions are the lifeguards and about 200 parking spaces.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.