FOLLY BEACH — Supporters of a ban on alcohol on the beach turned over a petition Tuesday night with the names of nearly 500 island residents who want the issue put to a binding vote.
But left hanging is when that vote would be held, since election rules allow municipal governments as much as a year before they’d have to put the question on a ballot.
In the meantime — and while those names and signatures are being verified as legitmate — City Council put any more discussion off on what to do about Folly’s drinking problem until next month.
The petition was delivered during what became another contentious council meeting as islanders remain split on whether Folly’s leniency toward drinking alcohol by the surf should be allowed to continue.
“Believe it or not, I’ve changed my mind five times on this,” council member Pennell Clamp said at one point in the discussion.
LaJuan Kennedy, a local real estate business operator, turned the 495 petition signatures over, saying there is clearly a movement by those fed up with what they say is out-of-control conduct not necessarily tied to the infamous July Fourth melee where thousands gathered for an oceanside party.
“It’s been a fun thing to do,” she said of organizing the effort, “but the people are serious.”
The next step is for those signatures to be confirmed as legal, since only island residents and voters would be allowed to take part in such a referendum.
While that verification is being done, Folly Mayor Tim Goodwin suggested council hold off on the scheduled third and final vote to put a nonbinding alcohol vote on the Nov. 6 ballot, saying the petition could end up being the trump card.
Council also opted to hold off on considering extending the current emergency ban on beach drinking until it meets again Aug. 14. Goodwin had wanted to see the ban extended to Dec. 31. It’s set to end around Labor Day.
Tuesday’s meeting drew about 25 people who spoke for and against a booze ban, with some saying a blanket drinking death penalty would greatly alter Folly’s funky reputation. Supporters, including Kennedy, said it would control conduct and direct people “back up to the bars and spend their money where we can tax them.”
“It’s taking effect; we’ve got our city back,” added Charlie McCarty, another supporter of the booze crackdown.
Others said loose alcohol rules have made the city “unlivable.”
But several people countered that council was moving too hastily, advancing the ban discussion without enough fact-finding on lost revenue from beer sales, or in seeking other options to accommodate both sides.
“Please slow down, this is Folly,” one speaker urged council, echoing the island’s driving motto.
Some business owners say the temporary ban enacted after the July 4 rowdiness is causing them to suffer financially. Omar Colon, of Bert’s Market, said he’s suffered in food and soda sales as well, because the message being sent out is “not to come here.”
Others said they were being penalized because of the actions of unruly outsiders.
Council members agreed to slow down the pace somewhat, calling for more fact-finding and brainstorming ahead of the mid-August meeting.
Folly leaders passed their emergency alcohol consumption ordinance July 10 that outlawed drinking on the beach for 60 days following the July Fourth “riot” that ended with seven arrests and five injured law enforcement officers. City officials say the island has become quiet since the ban took effect.
Even with Tuesday’s postponements and call for an island-wide vote, there still might not be a need for such a referendum. Council also has the option of enacting the citizen petition as an ordinance as is, officials said.
It also appears supporters collected far more signatures than were needed. The threshold was 15 percent of registered voters, or about 331 names.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551, or follow on Twitter at skropf47.
A sign leading on to Folly Beach reminds residents and visitors of a 60-day ban on alcohol on the beach, which is a hot topic this summer, brought to a head by problems during the July Fourth holiday.×
A sign leading on to Folly Beach reminds residents and visitors of a 60-day ban on alcohol on the beach, which is a hot topic this summer, brought to a head by problems during the Juy 4th holiday. At a city council meeting on Tuesday July 24, 2012, supporters of a binding referendum on permanently banning alcohol on the beachfront offered a petition with nearly 500 signatures of residents who want the idea put to a vote. (Wade Spees/postandcourier.com)×