Downtown businesses prepare for Cooper River Bridge Run weekend

You know what they say, it’s not about who crosses the finish line first, it’s about the celebration after!
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 10:26 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2023 at 5:25 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - It is officially the weekend of the event that thousands have been waiting for, and race participants aren’t the only ones excited for the 46th annual Cooper River Bridge Run.

You know what they say, it’s not about who crosses the finish line first, it’s about the celebration after. That’s why local bars and restaurants are preparing for a very busy weekend.

The 2023 Finish Festival in Marion Square will be taking place Saturday from 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

Keith Benjamin, owner of Uptown Social on King Street, says he already saw an uptick in business Friday afternoon during lunch. He’s optimistic this will be one of the busiest weekends his bar sees all year.

Benjamin says the timing of the race is so great because it’s a segway back into the busier months.

“We opened five years ago on King Street, on Bridge Run weekend, so it holds a special place in our heart, and I mean it’s a gorgeous weekend, the sun is shining, we might get a little bit of rain tomorrow, Sunday looks awesome,” Benjamin said. “This is why we’re in this business, it’s an exciting time for us.”

Businesses near Marion Square said they’re stocked and staff for what some referred to as the kickoff to busy season.

“Most of the time they’ll be like ‘I see you, I’m coming back,’ and I’m like alright, I ain’t going nowhere,” Alex Herron, a Booze Pops employee, said while describing his interactions with racers as they run past the popsicle truck.

Herron said he’s sleeping in the truck Friday night because he has to arrive at 4 a.m. to beat road closures.

He said the truck is fully stocked-- especially with water to pass out to racers and non-alcoholic ice cream treats for kids.

And Booze Pops isn’t the only business that’s upped their supplies in anticipation for a crazy morning.

“You cannot move in our walk-in right now,” Lo Harwell, a bartender at Frontier Lounge, said.

Harwell said the Frontier Lounge walk-in fridge is stuffed with liquor. She said they open early, at 9:30 a.m., for the finish festival, and have live music scheduled for the entire day.

The bartender at Big Gun Bar and Burgers, Christopher Shepp, has a different strategy regarding adult beverages.

He said they’re stocked up on what he called the “water beer variety,” and that Big Gun Bar and Burgers will be the place to be after the Finish Fest.

“I’m expecting a lot of fun people,” Shepp said. “Some folks are going to come in, they’re going to say, ‘I’ve worked this hard and now we get to hangout,’ and then ‘I’m hungry.’”

Marc McLeod, bar manager and part-owner of Big Johns Tavern on East Bay Street, says last year people would walk around and stop in different places, and he expects to see that again this weekend.

“We’ll have the windows and doors open,” McLeod said. “It’s always a big draw with the music and you walk by and there’s a lot of energy going on inside, I think that’s a big draw as well.”

Both Uptown Social, Big Johns Tavern and several other local spots have different food and drink specials, along with live music all weekend long.

The Bridge Run starts at 8 a.m. Saturday and many of the restaurants are joining in on the fun around 10 or 11 a.m.