By Zach Giroux for The Island Eye News
The upcoming Labor Day weekend, always one of the busiest times of the beach season, will be a bit busier this year now that beach chairs, coolers and shade devices will be permitted on the beach at Sullivan’s Island.
Just over a month ago, the Sullivan’s Island Town Council was steadfast in its decision to continue prohibiting such beach paraphernalia in its efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. On July 15, the Council took less than 10 minutes to reach a unanimous consensus to extend the ban for another 60 days, until Sept. 14.
However, at an emergency meeting Tuesday night, a week after receiving a notice forewarning legal action by a group known as the Charleston Beach Foundation, Council members voted unanimously to terminate Emergency Ordinance 2020-14, effective immediately.
The Council concurred that since the beach restriction has been in place since May, foot traffic has decreased to the island’s commercial area and restaurant scene.
“I feel like now is the time to be a good neighbor to our businesses,” Council member Bachman Smith said.
Council members Tim Reese, Sarah Church, Kaye Smith and Chauncey Clark voiced their agreement to rescind the ordinance and be a good neighbor to its sister island. The Council hopes that making Sullivan’s Island more friendly to beach-goers will alleviate crowding on the beach at Isle of Palms.
However, there were some qualms, largely on the part of Mayor Pat O’Neil, who feared that a measure to lessen a burden for one island could inadvertently send an “avalanche” of people over to Sullivan’s Island’s beach.
“My personal preference would be to let it run through Labor Day,” O’Neil said. “I kind of hate doing the experiment on the busiest weekend we’re going to have until spring.”
Congregating in groups of three or more unless it’s with family members is still prohibited, and groups on the beach still must remain 6 feet apart. A civil infraction of no more than $100 remains in effect for violators.
Since May 18, the Sullivan’s Island Police Department has issued nearly 400 citations to visitors in possession of the prohibited beach items.