FOLLY BEACH — LaJuan Kennedy took a major risk the first weekend of Folly Beach’s alcohol ban: She left the island in the middle of a sunny Saturday afternoon.
When she cruised back onto the beach, avoiding the usual bumper-to-bumper wait along Folly Road, she credited the ban. Kennedy owns Fred Holland Realty, which serves as a drop-off point for signatures on a petition to make the new law permanent.
“That’s the biggest complaint I get from renters,” she said. “They wait in traffic for an hour to get here and ask, ‘Is it going to be like this the whole time?’ ”
Folly Beach City Council heads to its third and final reading tonight on a referendum that puts the ban on the November general election ballot. Council passed an emergency ordinance July 10 that outlawed drinking on the beach for 60 days following a July Fourth “riot” that ended with seven arrests and five injured law enforcement officers.
Folly Beach Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown said the island fell quiet after the ban went into effect.
Public safety records show that officers have issued six open-container tickets, one ticket for drinking alcohol in a car, three tickets for disorderly conduct, three tickets for glass on the beach, and they have made three DUI arrests. Those 16 alcohol-related incidents only account for a small fraction of the island community’s 319 calls over the past two weeks.
Tonight’s meeting could move the ban onto a ballot, but the referendum would not be binding. Some residents have crafted a petition that, if certified by county election officials, could force council to adopt the ordinance almost exactly as written or put the issue to a binding referendum.
Folly resident Susan Breslin said the ordinance, as stated in the petition, simply removes a clause from Folly Beach law that treats the beach differently than any other public space by allowing alcohol. The petition must include signatures from 15 percent of registered voters, or about 331 names.
“We have more than that now, but they’re still coming in,” Breslin said.
Councilman Paul Hume continues to push for a more comprehensive look at the problem before imposing a new law.
“That’s like telling bad guys that they can’t use their guns anymore,” Hume said. “The last two weeks, has it been better? Sure, it’s been better. After the Fourth of July, it always calms down. It’s been ungodly hot, especially inland, so we have fewer day-trippers. It’s been cloudy, and people are ticked off because they feel like Folly Beach is saying we don’t want them.”
Hume continues talking with residents who want alternatives, such as restricted parking in problem areas, portable toilets on busy weekends and an increased law enforcement presence.
“We have spent more time talking about bringing your garbage can in at night,” Hume said. “To say, first of all, no drinking and, second of all, it’s going to solve all the problems, doesn’t seem realistic to me.”
Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin acknowledged the return to Folly’s sleepy, laid-back atmosphere, but wondered if other circumstances came into play these past few weeks.
“It was slower last weekend, but it was cloudy and overcast both days,” Goodwin said. “You don’t know how much that had an effect on the crowd. The first weekend with the ban was the weekend after the Fourth of July, which is typically slower.”
Asked over and over what happens at the end of the 60-day ordinance, Goodwin has said the city has enough to deal with in the immediate future. But tonight he plans to introduce an ordinance that would make alcohol illegal through the end of the year.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allysonjbird.