Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Many years ago, only a few bars and restaurants were located on Sullivan's Island: Dunleavy's Pub; Station 22; and Bert's Bar. St. Patrick's Day, for the most part, was celebrated only at Dunleavy's Pub. Everyone had a good time, the patrons were mostly adults, and many were Sullivan's Island residents. Certainly, a few patrons overindulged, but they still acted like adults, and a friend would see them home safely. Later, town council permitted Dunleavy's to close Station 22 ½ from Middle Street to I'on Street, and though the crowds grew larger, the patrons continued to behave as responsible adults. As more bars and restaurants opened in the commercial district, they wanted to share in the profits, too. This lead to additional partiers coming from off of the Island and concern for safety became an issue when people began loitering in Middle Street with traffic. In response, the Town installed webbed orange barricades to keep them safely off the street; however, the barricades did not eliminate the problem. Town Council then made the decision to block traffic on Middle Street from Station 22 to Station 22 ½ in an effort to improve safety and contain the crowds. Unfortunately, this only exasperated the problem and drew more people to the Island, culminating in an out-of-control situation. What we had the Saturday prior to this year's St. Patrick's Day were drunks with no regard for our community: four arrests; two non-responsive drunks taken away by EMS; six responses to medicals related to excessive alcohol; one accident involving four vehicles; disrespect for our police, firemen and town staff; and people throwing up and urinating everywhere. Recently, there has been an effort to change the ordinance that was wisely written by a previous town council to forbid a new restaurant or bar within 300 feet of an existing one. It was not in the best interest of the residents of Sullivan's Island to encourage more bars and restaurants in our small and already-congested commercial district. The St. Patrick's Day events of Saturday, March 15, is proof that we do not need any more eating and drinking establishments on the Island. There are already two in the commercial district that were not permitted to be what they have become today and are examples of why this ordinance must stand. There is only one member on Town Council who would benefit from changing the distance from 300 feet to 100 feet. Given what occurred in our commercial district on March 15, it is apparent we can no longer close off Middle Street to traffic. We must discontinue the Saturday St. Patrick's Day celebrations and limit any activity involving town staff to March 17. Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and the Isle of Palms do not allow their streets to be blocked for celebrations or encourage uncontrolled drinking and partying, and as a result, our Island is bearing the brunt for allowing it. We are a residential community, and I do not believe more than a handful of our residents want to see our Island become anything else. Let Town Council know you expect them to look out for you, the residents, first. If you do not, nothing will change, and the crowds will increase. Remember, Myrtle Beach once looked much like Sullivan's Island.
Carl J.F. Smith
Former mayor of Sullivan's Island