Folly Beach city council passes emergency alcohol ban ordinance

Citizens pack the Folly Beach Council chambers Tuesday (Nikki Gaskins/WCIV)

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) -- It was a packed house as Folly Beach city council heard the debate over whether or not to ban alcohol from the beach.

Local business owners supported the ban, saying that the beach needs to be more family friendly.

One Folly Beach homeowner agreed, saying "I never thought I would see the day when Folly Beach made Myrtle Beach look classy."

Chief Dennis Brown addressed the council and the mayor, describing the scene of July 4th. He arrived that day at 2 p.m. Some criticized Chief Dennis Brown for not showing up until the crowds started to get rowdy.

"Being chief of police, I would have been there at 9:00 in the morning to address these bus loads of people that were coming in," said one resident.

Brown defended himself by stating his officers did the best they can with what they had and admitted his officers could probably use some additional training.

"My officers were assaulted," he said. "One officer fractured his knee cap."

Brown said two of his officers are still out of work because of their injuries.

"They were throwing beer cans at our officers, bottles at our officers, wiffle balls at our officers, trying to pull the weapons from their holsters.{} It was not a very good scene," he said.

On the July 4th holiday the beach saw large crowds and beach parties, including crowds that left behind trash and even started a riot in which law enforcement officers were injured.

A total of 16 tickets were issued that day after a crowd got out of control and assaulted police officers.

Mayor Goodwin discussed implementing an emergency ordinance to get them through Labor Day.

To become law, a proposed ordinance to ban alcohol on the beach will have to be approved by town council and then by a public vote currently scheduled for November 6, 2012.

After hearing from all sides, the council added new business: Ordinance 23-12. This could ban alcohol on Folly Beach immediately.

Public comment followed, with the majority of people, speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, supporting the alcohol ban.

One homeowner told the council that while she loves the beach, a few ignorant people have no respect for it.

"We are the only beach on the coast that allows drinking, and we need to change that," said one woman.{} "This has always been a family beach."

A mother in the audience also chimed in on the issue.

"We love for everyone to come to Folly and have a great time, but we have two small children and we fear for their safety," she said.

A local liquor store owner said he supports the emergency ordinance to ban alcohol for 60 days.

Before reaching their vote, council members agreed it's time for Folly Beach to go on an image change.

"The culture of our beach has changed," said one council member. "And the culture is come to Folly and party down, let's get drunk, get naked."

In the end, the council voted unanimously to pass the emergency ordinance. It went into effect immediately and was greeted by a standing ovation.

Council members say they realize this is only a temporary fix until they can decide their next course of action. In the meantime, they hope they send a message to the tri-county that inappropriate behavior on the beach will no longer be tolerated.

Council members say they plan to meet in the next few days to discuss a proposed referendum that could ban alcohol on the beach for good. If the referendum is approved by council, the public would vote on it in November.