CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The carriage industry is slowly coming back to the streets of downtown Charleston.
Usually the horse-drawn carriages at Palmetto Carriage Works are filled with different guests and tourists sitting all together. But right now, rows are only allowed to have one party per row, and every row is divided by plexiglass.
There is also plexiglass between the drivers and all of the guests.
Palmetto Carriage Works is encouraging folks to wear masks while riding, but they say it is not required.
They are also doing fewer tours to give more time to clean carriages in between. Workers sanitize each one thoroughly between every single tour.
Palmetto Carriage Works is currently running at 25% of capacity right now. General Manager Tommy Doyle says this is partly his decision in order to keep people safe, but also because there aren’t a ton of tourists now. He says they rely heavily on the market being open, because the barn is right next to the Charleston City Market.
“You know where the carriages leave from at the market, we’re at a bit of a disadvantage right now because the market isn’t open," Doyle said. “So there’s not much of a reason to come down to the market right now. But we were super excited, it was just great to get back out and to drive carriages and see people and give tours, you know greet people that are excited to come to Charleston.”
He says normally in June they would have 12 to 14 carriages on the roads, with anywhere from four to 16 riders on each.
Right now, they are running about four carriages at a time. While they aren’t getting tons of tourists, yet, Doyle says it’s nice to be able to accommodate folks who are coming.
“The best part about it was, the day we could open, that I got to come down, open the barn, feed the animals, and start the day," he said. “And that was just fantastic and I’m just glad to be back out. Everybody that’s come back to work is so happy to be here, the tourists that are riding in the carriages are so happy to be out. I think everybody’s just really happy to be out and doing something.”
Doyle said he had to lay off 84 people because of the pandemic. He is now slowly bringing people back.
He usually has 34 tours guides working and right now he only has nine.
Palmetto Carriage works reopened on Memorial Day weekend. Doyle says it will be a gradual reopening process, and while June isn't the busiest month, it's nice to be back open.
He says his company has one six months with no positive income.
"What makes it really tough is in the Winter time is we spend money to buy new animals, we spend money to get our carriages tuned up," Doyle said. "So we're already behind the 8-ball when we get ready to go into April. And to lose most of March, and all of April, was catastrophic for our business."
He's hoping by July more people will be able to travel and they can be getting back to normal.
Doyle said the current social distancing and cleaning policy lasts for 30 days, so they will be doing this for at
least the next three weeks for tours, and then they will re-evaluate.