Just two Saturdays after Folly Beach City Council put a temporary ban on alcohol on the beach, the island has less traffic, crowds, noise and littering, more families and a general sense of calm — along with a more discreet consumption of alcohol.
Granted, beach traffic does tend to drop off slightly after the Fourth of July holidays and the day started out a tad hazy.
Still, observers say those factors aren’t enough to cause notable changes in the atmosphere that led to the July 4 ruckus and, subsequently, the temporary ban and proposed referendum on a ban on Nov. 6. City Council plans a final vote on holding the referendum on Tuesday.
Lifeguards, beach patrol officers and surfers interviewed Saturday all spoke of the major change in atmosphere on Folly to a calmer, quieter place and that drinking was still taking place on the beach, just on a much smaller, more subtle scale.
They noted that people were likely pouring drinks into containers, such as Solo-brand cups or foam cups with lids.
Among the most obvious drinkers early Saturday afternoon were two women from Charlotte, who were walking in front of The Tides hotel with Solo cups filled with beer.
The women, one of whom was a teacher, only gave their first names, Amy and Jackie. They knew about the ban — emphasized by multiple signs on Folly Road — but are used to drinking on Wrightsville Beach, N.C., which also bans alcohol.
“You’re not going to stop people from drinking alcohol,” said Jackie. “They will just get more creative and careful about it.”
When Folly Beach Public Safety Director Dennis Brown was asked Saturday how many tickets for drinking on the beach had been issued to date, Brown said he didn’t recall and that a report was sent to another reporter at The Post and Courier on Friday. The report, however, was not received.
Brown described Saturday as being “quiet and respectful” but that “it’s too soon to come to any conclusions” about the effectiveness of the temporary ban.
Meanwhile, a vandalism incident on Friday evening points to the possible rough road ahead for Folly heading into the fall and a citywide vote.
Sometime before 9:30 p.m. Friday, someone wrote “NTTBY2AP” in big letters on the driveway and street in front of the house of Folly resident Chris Marley, a recently converted supporter of the alcohol ban.
The letters stand for “No to the Ban, Yes to a Plan,” a motto being pushed by opponents of the ban. And though Marley discovered at sunrise Saturday that the letters were written with a temporary paint or chalk substance, he was threatened by it.
“It’s intimidating and I think it was meant to be intimidating … I don’t know who did it,” said Marley, adding that he worries tensions could escalate as the referendum approaches.
He also points to the rancor on the Facebook page, Follitics, which he recently unsubscribed to. Otherwise, for now, the beach and the island seem quiet and peaceful.
Most people interviewed Saturday were supportive of the ban and liked the results of it.
Surfer Kai Dilling, who lives in Mount Pleasant but comes to Folly daily to teach surfing, was among those at the Gromfest Surfing Contest at The Washout who noted the improvements after the temporary ban.
“It just seems nicer,” said Dilling. “There are a lot less people, you can get on and off the island quicker, there are more families, less trash. There are still beer cans (littering the roadways) but a lot less.”
Dilling said seeing drunks stumbling around in public used be a common sight, even on weekdays, but he hasn’t seen one since the ban.
Surfing contest organizer Nancy Hussey compared post-ban Folly to being “like Mayberry.”
“The weekend after the ban I was out riding my bike with my dog in a basket and it was so calm and peaceful.”
Others remained uneasy about the ban.
Julia Cologne, co-owner of Bert’s Market, said the city should find solutions to the traffic, parking and litter problems without banning alcohol.
“It’s a matter of coming up with creative solutions around that. Hopefully the ban will be voted down and we can come up with solutions, maybe a ban on certain holiday weekends, but what we want is a dialog with our government that covers all these issues,” said Cologne, adding that council passed the temporary ban too quickly.
As far as the ban hurting her business, Cologne said “It’s too soon to know ... I’m still digesting this.
“It’s been very stressful for our community because we are polarized. We’re a small and tight-knit community … What we want is whatever is best for our community.”
At Taco Boy, bartender Karin Colyer said business has slowed a bit during the day and thinks there is a bit of backlash boycott against Folly going on.
“I think people will get over it,” said Colyer, adding that she’s had to deal with fewer incoherent drunks as a result of the ban.
Taco Boy waitress Caitlyn McDermott overheard her comments and said emphatically, “I love it (the ban). It’s like having the atmosphere of the off-season, but busier.”
She added, “We know how to party hard on Folly, but maintain (our composure).”