Signs of change follow approval of booze ban on Folly Beach

Signs of change are appearing on Folly Beach following a riot on the Fourth of July. (John Gaddy/WCIV)

By Natalie

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) -- The sign that once warned Folly Beach visitors about the law banning glass on the beach yielded a new warning Wednesday.

"No beer or alcohol on beach," it read.

Wednesday marked the first of a 60-day ban created in effort to keep booze off the beach. Tuesday night Folly Beach council approved the moratorium following a Fourth of July riot on the beach that left officers injured and tons of trash.

Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown says he's instructed his officers and beach patrol officers to start visiting the beach and parking areas to let people know about the new ban.

"We've ordered 62 signs to go on the beach access points," he said.

After about a week of warnings, Chief Brown says they intend to ticket. According to the approved ban, police officers have discretion for the amount to fine an individual. Chief Brown says it ranges between $250 and $1,000.

The discussion over banning booze on Folly has been going on for years. Councilman Eddie Ellis says the behavior lately on the island is inappropriate.

"I love to party. I've never been married. I've never had kids. I've lived on Folly Beach for 20 years. I've had a great time, but I don't even like going out to the beach anymore because it's just a lot of drunk rednecks," Ellis said.

At least eight people were arrested following the incident on 10th Avenue on Folly Beach. Some were charged with disorderly conduct, inciting a riot and/or assaulting law enforcement officers.

"At 10 a.m. we had a young lady passed out in the dunes. So it had started before nine o'clock, and we did the best we could with the resources we had," Chief Brown said.

Brown says they requested Charleston County deputies who he says serve Folly Beach as an off-duty assignment. He says the officers there that day volunteered.

"The sheriff is still responsible for providing officers in the unincorporated areas of Charleston County," Chief Brown said.

Booze Ban

Omar Colon owns Bert's on Folly, where they sell groceries and alcohol. Colon, who says less than half of his revenue, is made through alcohol sales, knows he'll take a hit with the ban but says that's not what bothers him most.

"From a business perspective, we'll probably take a hit in revenue, which I don't mind. What I think disappoints me the most is that there was no openness to any other solution," Colon said.

He also attended Tuesday night's meeting, where he says at least more than 100 people packed council chambers, lined out into the hallway. He says he was disappointed by the unwillingness to hear any moderate solutions rather than a full ban, without study or closer consideration.

"Much like they accused the kids on the beach of being -- very disrespectful, booing, yelling 'no' to people that were speaking," he said.

The ban is in effect for 60 days. In November, voters will decide on a referendum whether or not the ban will be permanent. A special meeting regarding that referendum is planned for Thursday at 7 p.m.