Folly Beach business taking beating over booze ban

Folly Beach business taking beating over booze ban

FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - It's been two decades and Bert's Market on East Ashley Avenue on Folly Beach is still selling. Bert's is the only grocery store on Folly and has become a staple for residents and visitors alike. But in the short time the alcohol ban has swept the beach, Bert's owner Omar Colon, says things are changing for the worst.

"Since the ban, it's been the first string of a percent down of our year-to-date sales," said Colon, who is basing his conclusions on information and numbers.

"We make our money in the summer so that we can stay open for the community in the winter," said the store owner. "For some people it's just going to be crushing."

On Tuesday night, council voted five to two to put the vote on hold to add the proposed ban on alcohol on the November ballot. Mayor Tim Goodwin says the referendum is an advisory and not a binding referendum. Goodwin says the advisory was more to get an idea of what voters wanted and guide council.

A petition with more than 400 signatures in favor the ban prompted council to hold off on making a decision.

LaJuan Kennedy, who drafted the petition, says out of 490 signatures on the petition, 404 will go through a voter verification process on Wednesday. Kennedy said only 331 valid voter signatures are needed to solidify a petition that forces city council to take action on the future of a ban.

"People were passionate enough about it to go out to their neighbors and get their neighbors to sign it," said Kennedy.

The petition reads as follows:

No person shall possess an open container of beer or alcoholic beverage on the streets, beach or other public property, with the exception that alcoholic. Non-alcoholic beverages are allowed on the beach in paper or plastic cups. Any cans or bottles must remain in the cooler at all times provided cans they may be removed briefly for the purpose of transferring the contents to a paper or plastic cup. Kegs, small or large, are considered cans and shall not be allowed on the beach.

Kennedy said the signatures were collected in a matter of two weeks after the alcohol ban was passed in an emergency resolution July 10.

If more than 331 signatures on the petition are Folly residents (15% of registered voters from last election) the paperwork will be passed from the voter registration board to the City Council. Council member Eddie Ellis says the group has one of two options.

"Mayor and council have a choice to either pass the law themselves as it was written on the petition or we send it to the ballot as a [binding] referendum," said Ellis.

Kennedy believes banning alcohol is the best thing for Folly right now, but Colon says that solution isn't keeping local businesses in mind.

"We have a solution in place that causes side effects that people aren't even acknowledging," said Colon. "That's dangerous for our community and it's harmful to our community and we should be regarded as someone to be cared about."

The catalyst for the temporary 60-day ban was a Fourth of July riot that took place on 10th street. Several people were arrested and several officers were hurt in the brawl that was caught on video.

Folly Beach City Council will meet again on August 14 to discuss the future of the drinking ban on the beach.

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