Jul 20 2012

An Alcohol-Free Folly Beach

Headed to Folly? Pack your sunscreen and surfboard, but leave your beer at home, at least for the next 60 days. The Edge of America has banned all alcohol from its beautiful beaches for two months in response to what some call a “riot” on July 4th. Then, depending on what voters decide in November, the alcohol ban could become permanent.

Previous drinking laws on Folly Beach mirrored the community’s relaxed vibe. Beach-goers could drink as long as alcohol was kept in plastic cups. Cans had to stay in the cooler, and bottles were never allowed. As a result, the barrier island developed a reputation, not just for it’s surfing, fishing, and sunbathing, but also as something of a party destination. The new approach to drinking is much stricter and some say uncharacteristic of Folly’s hassle-free personality.

Of course, what happened on the beach on July 4th was anything but hassle-free. When town law enforcement stepped in to take a bottle from a rowdy beachgoer near East 10th Street, the reveler struck the officer. Other people on the beach immediately circled around the struggle and began chanting, “U.S.A. U.S.A.” (The video went viral on YouTube quickly.) By the time the sand settled, five law enforcement officers were hurt, and six people had been arrested with charges from inciting a riot down.

City Council acted quickly, definitively, and a bit controversially. The alcohol ban has divided residents and visitors, although both sides claim to have the island community’s best interests at heart. On July 12, the City of Folly Beach’s web site announced, “Effective immediately there will be no alcohol consumption allowed on the beach. This is in effect until September 9, 2012.” The announcement clarifies that alcohol-free coolers are still allowed. Questions can be directed to Toni Connor-Rooks at 843-708-9474.

Signs warning of the ban have been hung along the road onto Folly and at beach access points, and officers will be patrolling. Tickets for ocean-side drinking will range from $250 to $1,092, depending on the officer’s discretion.

But remember: until the 60 days are up, there’s always Center Street.

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Bob Hart Author

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