This Independence Day marked our nation’s 237th birthday — and Folly Beach’s one-year anniversary of its decision to ban alcohol from the beach.
Views on the booze ban, however, are as mixed as a well-made cocktail.
“To be blunt, this Fourth of July has been almost a joke,” said Brittany Buzzard, kitchen manager at the Folly Beach Shrimp Co. She said the alcohol ban has hurt businesses in the city.
Buzzard said she believes beach traffic is down because the beach isn’t “special” anymore. She said people used to drive especially to Folly Beach because they could sit in the sand, look out at the ocean and have a drink in their hand. Now that every beach in the area is essentially the same, at least as far as alcohol is concerned, people aren’t as willing to make long treks to the area.
While the crowds flocking to Folly may not be as large, Mayor Tim Goodwin believes they are more well-behaved.
“We’ve been seeing more polite, behaved visitors” since the alcohol ban went, Goodwin said.
During the Fourth holiday last year, some 3,000 and 4,000 college-age beachgoers from tour buses caused essentially a riot, resulting in seven arrests, and injuries to four officers and a deputy.
While there is no way to know exactly what sparked the incident, excessive heat and heavy drinking were most likely contributing factors.
According to Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown, only eight alcohol citations were written on Folly Beach this Fourth of July, and only two people were arrested.
Buzzard said that while business in the area isn’t nearly what it was during previous summers, she had noticed that the crowds at the beach are cleaner and more orderly.
“It’s probably cleaner and less chaotic. And I’ve noticed fewer car accidents around here,” she said.
On top of the massive, alcohol-fueled riot, more than 100 bags of trash were left on the beach after last year’s incidents.
This year, Folly Beach officials planned for a less-hostile crowd with fewer headaches, no alcohol and fewer bags of garbage.
“Trash was definitely not as bad as last year,” said Kevin Whitsett, in public works at Folly Beach.
Goodwin said that the city had rented dumpsters and placed them in high-traffic areas, making any trash easily disposable.
He hoped the efforts would encourage visitors to respect the beach and the people that live in the area.
“It’s a community beach. It’s nice when people take memories home and put trash in the trash cans,” said Goodwin.