With tourist season around the corner, local restaurants are gearing up by making big changes

By Jessica Cobb | Current Staff Writer

As most know, living in a destination city and its surrounding beach towns has its pros and cons. We get the beautiful weather, numerous fun events, views of the unmistakable Lowcountry, and of course the plethora of innovative and delicious restaurants. We’re also fortunate with today’s social media span to have the opportunity to follow many neighborhood ‘locals only’ and business Facebook pages that are dedicated to keeping people up to date and informed about every-day happenings around our little island. These include special foodie events, weekly food and beverage specials, and live music happenings at our family of restaurants and bars. However, many are unaware of just how tough it can be to local restaurants and small business owners during this time of year that we are finally about to come out of … the off-season.

The key for many businesses and workers on Folly Beach is to mitigate against the unpredictability by saving, cutting, closing, reopening, innovating, and generally adopting a survivor’s mentality. Stories of years past told by long-time residents are quick to remember the times when the entire island would basically shut down from November to March. The very few small eateries on the island had to squirrel away whatever funds during the spring and summer that they could just to survive being closed during the off-season.

With the ever-growing population of the surrounding areas, that drastic measure isn’t quite as necessary now. But working in food and beverage year round in a beach town can still be financially daunting.

Obviously, you may still see shorter hours and less staff, but with less customers that’s only natural. Business owners have set the precedent during our winter months of offering benefits such as local loyalty programs, blue-plate specials, oyster roasts, and smaller local live music acts to keep the ball rolling as much as possible.

Then before we know it, we begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The weather starts to warm up, there are a few more cars trickling on to the island every day, the music spills on to the sidewalks a little more frequently, and businesses are filling up.

Many local restaurants have utilized this slow time to make physical improvements, menu changes, and generally just to prepare for the upcoming busy season.

For instance, Snapper Jack’s has been hard at work yet again on their interior. The sushi bar is being re-located to the less-populated second floor to allow for more seating back on the main floor dining room.

At St. James Gate Irish Pub, some fancy new brickwork has been added to the outside to beautify the building.

We hear there are some changes coming to the dining room and bar area at Blu inside Tides. Stay tuned for more info …

Sunset Cay Marina’s Ship Store is one to watch as well this “on-season.” For the past couple of years, they’ve maintained a permit to simply sell, but not serve/pour alcohol. Look for that to change in the near future. Owner John Oliver is working on restoring their full alcohol license, as well as finally being able to re-vamp and start serving food from the kitchen again after much effort.

In the meantime, they are still hosting private events and are always accepting donations to support their efforts to re-open. Another outdoor establishment that’s constantly changing, Chico Feo has recently re-vamped a bit by re-doing their bar and adding the much-anticipated ramen shop Feo East to the front of their lot. According to owner Hank Weed, the hardest part during the winter is not having a roof, so that means their business is totally weather-dependent. When asked what Weed is looking forward to with Spring on the way? “Not having a roof!” Classic Folly.

Jessica Cobb is a Folly Beach resident with years of culinary experience tucked into her apron pocket. Classically trained chef and owner of local catering company, Some Like it Hot, she joins the Folly Current as a contributing writer to the Food and Dining section in hopes of sparking new interest, cravings, and insight from our eclectic bunch of restaurants.

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