Isle Of Palms Marina Pushes For Looser Alcohol Laws

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

The question of whether the store at the Isle of Palms Marina was destined to be transformed into a bar was just one of several sticking points that kept the IOP Council from moving forward with plans to re-assign the amended Marina leases at a special meeting June 2. 

The deal with 32 North was put on hold when the Council emerged from executive session and Mayor Phillip Pounds announced that the city’s legal counsel had been instructed to continue negotiations with Mike Shuler, the company’s manager and principal investor. The Council was asked in late April to re-assign the leases for the Marina and store currently held by Marina Manager Brian Berrigan. 

The most vocal opponent of the proposed agreement was Council Member Katie Miars, who pointed out that her main objection concerned the possibility that the new Marina manager would have the option to sell beer that could be consumed on the premises. Miars, who insisted that her grievances be aired publicly rather than in executive session, was adamant about making concessions concerning the leases. “It seems like every single time we amend this lease, we give more to the tenant and take away from the city,” Miars said. “We have increased the threshold for paying more rent. We have taken away the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the facilities. 

We have extended the lease up to 2045. We have built new docks to the tune of $5 million. We have had this contentious issue with shared parking which the city has not stood up for the residents. Now, we are looking to give this new lease holder even more.” “They’re getting plenty,” Miars added. “This is a really good lease for them. They don’t need onsite consumption of alcohol. It just gives the tenant another thing to make money off of. Giving up the one restriction we have down there against alcohol consumption is not something that I’m willing to concede. I can’t give up yet another thing for that Marina.” Shuler, who made a presentation on his plans for the Marina to the Council at the June 2 meeting, later denied that he plans to turn the store into a bar. “There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation. There’s innuendo across the board, but that’s the nature of these things,” Shuler said. Shuler also denied the rumor that under the current proposed lease, he would be in control of the parking situation at the Marina. “I’ve decided I don’t want to deal with that,” Shuler said. “I don’t want to contribute to that problem. I want to help solve the problem. I’ve basically yielded what would be my interest in that parking lot back to the city. It’s a big gift that I’m happy to make in a good faith effort as part of this greater process.” Pounds confirmed after the meeting that according to the current draft, the shared parking, located between the parking area for the Islander 71 restaurant and the lot reserved for Marina and restaurant employees, would be under the control of the city. The mayor said there would “most likely be some form of free parking” for about 45 cars and trailers. The city has already negotiated another 16 free spots for island residents. Concerning the alcohol situation at the Marina store, Pounds explained that under current city regulations, customers can buy beer in the store but aren’t permitted to drink it on the decks outside the store – but they do anyways. “The new Marina operator is asking for clarity – selling what the store is selling today but allowing people to drink on the back and side decks,” Pounds said. Shuler said he is contemplating some new initiatives at the Marina, possibly including an ice cream station, a game room for kids and a fresh seafood market. Miars was not the only Council member preaching caution before the Council approves the ordinance establishing the new lease is read for the first time.

John Bogosian said “We should pump the brakes here and give the community a chance to react with Mr. Shuler in a public setting so they can get a feel for what he wants to do.” Scott Pierce said he was “very uncomfortable with proceeding with the first reading. In my opinion, we are nowhere near ready for a first reading.” 

Jimmy Ward also was reluctant to move on with the first reading of the ordinance. “Right now, I think we’re fractured. We should postpone it right now and do a lot more work,” Ward noted. 

Other members of the Council indicated that they were ready for a first reading of the ordinance. 

For example, Blair Hahn pointed out that the Council “has to deal with the lease as it exists.” “The positives far outweigh any potential negative or parade of horribles that somebody might want to create,” Hahn said. “We get the parking straightened out to the point that residents will now have free parking at the Marina, which is a huge benefit. We divorce ourselves from the parking manager situation, which has been worse than a nightmare. We stop all that. All of that goes away.” Rusty Streetman added that he was impressed with Shuler’s plans for the Marina and enthusiastic about proposed changes in the parking situation. “We fought for years to get 16 parking spots for our residents. Now we’ve got a potential tenant that is willing to give up any interest in that shared parking lot so the city can open that up for free resident parking. I think that’s a big win.” 

Following the public discussion, the Council voted by a 7-1 count to retreat into executive session. Ward voted against the measure, and Jan Anderson was not at the meeting. When the Council returned, Pounds announced that negotiations with Shuler would continue because “there are a few outstanding items we are wanting to have nailed down before we move to a first reading.” 

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