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Residents Rally to Save the Sunset Cay “Ship Store”

folly beach vacation homes

If you’ve ever gone in search of the perfect spot to soak up a sunset on Folly Beach, you may very well have ended up at Sunset Cay Social Club or, as it is affectionately known, “the Ship Store.”

Situated on the Folly River, the popular spot has been a locals’ favorite in some form or fashion since Dan and Cindy O’Rourke operated the Folly Marina decades ago (think pre-Hugo!). So the question at hand is this: Why are state and city regulators all of a sudden challenging the legality of the Ship Store’s business license?

The quagmire reportedly began last fall, when officials with the state Office of Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) visited the Ship Store and reported “numerous mini-bottles of liquor and other items indicative of beverage service,” coupled with a liquor license on the wall.

This raised a red flag, leading to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issuing a cease and desist order to the property to stop beverage service immediately.

However, supporters of the Ship Store quickly clamored to its defense, citing an amendment to the marina permit which allegedly allows the sale of beverages and pre-packaged foods, such as subs. But because the building sits above water, DHEC countered that any selling of such items is a direct violation of regulations regarding non-water dependent activity over a coastal waters critical area. Subsequently, the city of Folly Beach denied the Ship Store’s business license.

Fans of this beloved spot have since rallied on social media, though, promising they aren’t going down without a fight.

In response to the Ship Store’s appeal of the ruling, a Council meeting was held at City Hall last week. Although citizens were not allowed to speak during the hearing, they were allowed to express their concerns during the regular meeting’s comment forum.

Actions speak louder than words, as they say, and the actions of the Ship Store’s supporters spoke volumes — the turn-out at the meeting was so large that the overflow crowd had to be funneled into the hallway.

Ultimately, the decision was deferred until November, prompting the following response on the Ship Store’s Facebook page:

“Ok, first , thank you so much for the attendance today. We owe each and every one of you a sincere debt of gratitude. A small victory in a much larger fight but we live to fight another day. If anyone is wondering, we are definitely open for business. The show of support was awesome, a full room and the entire hallway from end to end packed. You guys rock.”

As referenced, however, the Ship Store still isn’t in the clear. In fact, it may be an uphill battle. Despite the seemingly majority desire of Folly’s residents for the Ship Store to be grandfathered in and allowed to continue operating in its current capacity, OCRM  (and state law) trumps the city of Folly Beach. Since the property is not currently zoned for restaurant/bar use, they would likely need special permission from OCRM if they hope to remain a Folly Beach fixture.

Check back for more details on this situation as it develops.


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