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Casting a Giant Shadow

With Tides closed for repairs following Hurricane Irma, the rest of Center Street is left in the dark

By Bill Davis | Current Staff Writer

A common tide may float all boats, but a closed Tides may mean less money for everyone …

If there was ever any doubt as to just how important Tides hotel is to the local economy, the last month and half have reminded us that Folly’s towering 132-room oceanfront monolith is more than a hotel, it’s a revenue-generator for the entire island.

Local tourist industry continues to take a hit in the wake of Hurricane Irma, as the Tides Folly Beach Hotel has remained closed since the storm hit on Sept. 11.

Back in September, after the Cat. 5 hurricane roared along the western side of the Florida panhandle before trundling into the mainland, Irma created the third highest storm surge in South Carolina history.

Just getting hit by the outer parts of the powerful and windy storm was enough to damage the Tides, soaking carpets and some drywall at the oceanfront hotel. Management announced at the time it would close the hotel proper until a full re-carpeting and spot repairs on the drywall damage could be completed, hopefully by Nov. 15.

BLU Restaurant and Bar initially remained open for extended weekend duty, Thursday through Sunday nights, but has since been closed, according to the hotel’s social media to allow for more safety during construction work.

City Administrator Spencer Wetmore said she hoped that some of those visitors displaced by the Tides closing could be absorbed by smaller hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts on the island. Regardless, Wetmore said the city would definitely take a hit in its various accommodations taxes.

As no other facility on Folly has the capability to host really big wedding receptions, and house all of the attendees, some weddings have had to be rescheduled or moved.

Gena Buff has been the senior executive front desk agent at the Water’s Edge Inn for just over a decade. And she has seen her facility’s occupancy swell as a result of the Tides’ temporary shuttering, especially for the time of the year.

“Usually we start to taper off in October,” said Buff, referring to both Water’s Edge and its sister property Regatta Inn. “But this year we have definitely seen an intensification in interest.”

Buff said that she had “no doubt” that local AirBnB’s and VRBO’s would also benefit from the Tides being closed.

But the overall impact from the closure may take months to fully calculate, according to Lee Gessner, the city’s director of finance.

Gessner said that while there will hospitality tax collections will be affected “to a degree,” he believes it wont bet as dramatic as the effect on accommodations taxes.

Gessner said that particulars on accommodations taxes — one for the city, the other for the state — usually come back from the county two or three months after they were collected.

City documents state that close to $1.7 million in state and city A Tax were collected for the fiscal year ending in June. But only $76,000 of that amount came from October to November last year, according to Gessner.

And since the lion’s share of the A Tax collected for the city goes toward the city’s beach preservation fund, that could mean a smaller pile of cash going forward to replace sand that Irma took with her.

Lewis Dodson said the Center Street restaurant he co-owns, Drop-In Bar & Deli & is already feeling the impact of Tides being closed. “We sell a lot of food to the people who work at Tides, and we usually deliver twice a day to Tides employees – that’s a lack of sales right there.”

Dodson is also the current president of the Folly Association of Business, and feels for all its members.

“From a FAB perspective, we hate to see any of your fellow businesses close, even for a short time, and especially for the nefarious reason as a dumb hurricane,” Dodson said. He added that he is hopeful that the closure will guide visitors and tourists to seek out other accommodation options they might not have considered in the past at Folly.

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