South Carolina Island Seeks Chain Business Ban to Maintain 'Unique Character'

The ban may be well-intentioned, but it's misguided all the same.


Chon Kit Leong/

A South Carolina island might soon ban chain restaurants and other stores from opening up new locations. One of ban's main goals, according to the proposed ordinance, is to maintain the island's "unique character."

About 2,400 people live on Folly Beach Island, which itself is part of the city of Folly Beach, South Carolina. The ordinance passed earlier this month by the city council would prohibit "formula businesses within the downtown commercial, island commercial, and marine commercial districts."

"Formula businesses," meanwhile, are defined as establishments "with 10 or more outlets anywhere in the world; and with standardized services, such as merchandise, trademark, logo, uniforms, décor, etc."

The island is currently home to a Subway restaurant and a BP gas station, though neither establishment would be affected by the ban. Folly Beach Island already has a ban on drive-through businesses in place.

The ban on chain businesses was originally proposed by the nonprofit group Lowcountry Local First, the Charleston Post and Courier reports. "This is not a new model," the organization's operations director, Lauren Gellatly, told the newspaper, explaining that 20 cities around the nation have enacted similar rules.

In a letter from the city's planning commission to the city council, Folly Beach Zoning Administrator Aaron Pope said no residents publicly opposed the ban. As a result, the commission approved the ordinance and referred its recommendation to the city council.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin, who supports the measure, says it's meant to help small businesses. "I think it's good to keep the businesses of Folly Beach, Folly Beach," Goodwin told WCSC. "The goal is to keep mom and pop places healthy and alive."

That goal is reflected in the wording of the ordinance itself. The proposed ban, which is up for a final vote next month, is meant to "preserve the unique character of the nonresidential areas on Folly Island proper." The ordinance is also supposed to "provide employment opportunities."

Not everyone supports it. South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association spokesperson Katie Montgomery told the Post and Courier that "businesses should be reflections of their local communities and be a cohesive part of their neighborhoods." But, she added, "too broad stroke of a ban could be prohibitive to growing restaurant groups and to customers looking for diverse dining options."

Montgomery has a point. The ban may be well-intentioned, but it's misguided all the same. If consumers want to pay more for town character at mom and pop businesses, then they will. In general, the government—whether it be at the federal, state, or local level—should not be in the business of propping up businesses just for the sake of keeping them open. Folks who want cheaper options shouldn't have their access to those options cut off just because the government says so.

It's simple logic, as food lawyer Baylen Linnekin noted in a 2016 piece for Reason:

Studies of the best places to eat often conclude that the more restaurants a city has per-capita, the better its restaurant scene. It's no surprise that the more choices a consumer has, the better off that consumer is.

Plus, subsidizing local businesses is a form of "crony capitalism," as Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward argued in 2013.

She's right. For the sake of consumers, Folly Beach shouldn't get in the way of the free market.

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  1. About 2,400 people live on Folly Beach Island…


    We could always embargo them like Cuba if they want to maintain quaint.

    1. Embargo them, and wait 50 years and their classic cars will be on point.

      1. Since they prefer the “regional flavor” perhaps they should ban all “National products” and force businesses to deal only in local products. . .I would love to see their version of Charmin or “Quilted Northern” toilet paper, or how the people will feel about having to leave the local market for a can of corn or a Coke.

        Dorks all.

        1. Let’s see them make a pencil.

          1. Pshh. That’s easy! It only takes one man to make a pencil, everybody knows that!

    2. It’s not the embargo that makes Cuba quaint.

    3. Make more profit weekly… This is an awesome side job for anybody… Best part about it is that you can work from comfort of your house and earn 100-2000 dollars every week … Apply for the job now and have your first check at the end of the week.

      linked here…..=====???

  2. But there are good intentions, so, yeah.

  3. SC born and raised. Folly’s a fun place to go and if you like to surf it’s one of the few places on the East Coast where you can do it. Of course, this law is dumb and an unsurprising considering the “keep Folly weird” attitude that has become pervasive down there.

    1. Of course, this law is dumb and an unsurprising considering the “keep Folly weird” attitude that has become pervasive down there.

      At first I thought opening a TGII* Friday’s would be a fun way to thwart their silly ordinance, but it sounds like they might enjoy something like that.

      *Thank Goodness It Isn’t

    2. Well, the thing of it is that a lot of people like things to be a certain way… Maybe not everybody in the whole world, but often times a good chunk. I would probably PREFER a small place like that to remain “quaint” and the vast majority of the people who live there might too. I actually used to live in a place like this, and that was very much the sentiment there too.

      If it were a company town, all on private property, nobody here would blink an eye. But stuff like this being imposed by law is definitely whack.

  4. Folly Beach is a really, really nice place.

    But fuck this idiotic nonsense.

    1. They are just trying to live up to the name.

  5. “The ban may be well-intentioned, but it’s misguided all the same.”

    “..[W]ell-intentioned..” like a 5-year plan?

    1. BTW, SF has a similar ban in place; there is one Lowes in town and that snuck in under some lame ‘local emplyment’ requirements.
      So along with ridiculous ‘remodel’ regs from the building dept., we get to pay ridiculous prices so ‘mom and dad’ have a place to work.

      1. I was in SF on Saturday. I went to a record store and had a hobo spit at me in Golden Gate Park. He missed though.

        1. I am picturing BUCS doing some sort of Matrix dodging to foil the hobo, then jump kicking him in the head in slow motion.

          1. I only let spit from ladies touch my skin.

          2. This series of comments made me LITERALLY LOL. Like literally bro.

        2. “He missed though.”

          It’s fortunate that drinking for breakfast tends to ruin the aim…

  6. Actions like this should constitute “takings” under the eminent domain clause. If a landowner’s value goes down because he can no longer sell to Burger King or Season’s 52, then the town owes him the difference between the old fmv and the new fmv if any.

  7. More of the bizarre argument that people don’t like those sorts of businesses and if we let them in everybody will shop there, usually leveled against Walmart. Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.

    1. Well of course.

      People’s intentions are not revealed by what they do – given the chance.

      They are revealed by what central planning politicians claim them to be.

    2. This is just a case of diferent parties’ economic interests running up against each other. The people who own the hotels and the other businesses that depend on tourism, benefit from keeping all of the small non corporate shops because such shops attract tourists. The shops themselves don’t make money but the tourists that the entire area attracts because of all of those shops and “local flavor” end up making other businesses money.

      What happens is this; if a small number of corporate places can buy in, they can by virtue of being corporate and more competitive than the small shops make a lot of money. If, however, too many corporate places move in, then the places looses its attraction for tourists and all of them go belly up. Well, the corporates have no real way to know what consititutes one too many corporate places that kills the atmosphere and business with it. So, eventually the one too many corporate place moves in and the places loses its apeal to tourists.

      This is a good example of how markets are not perfect and do not always produce ideal results. In the short term, the few corporate places that get in early will make a lot of money. But in the long term, the place will end up losing its appeal and its tourist business if the market is allowed to work itself out.

      Now maybe that is the preferred result since regulation rarely does what it is supposed to do.

  8. The island is currently home to a Subway restaurant and a BP gas station, though neither establishment would be affected by the ban.

    Due to their unique Folly-like character?

    1. Grandfathered in I would imagine.

  9. When will McRonalds and Burger Prince open?

    1. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Arby’s!

    2. It’s not “McDonald’s”, it’s “MacDonald’s”!

      1. I would travel any distance for a Norm MacDonald themed restaurant.

        1. “No dogs allowed, except for Hitler.”

      2. No, it’s “MacDowell’s.”

    3. McDowell’s.

      1. I should have read further down the comments.

  10. Just imagine when low-rent immigrants show up to work the kitchen in their mom-and-pop restaurants, they can herald themselves as being diverse and Shikha can hold them up as shining examples of the unbridled good of free markets and immigration.

  11. Hitler was well-intentioned, to the right people. So were Stalin, Mao, and every despot ever. I dare you to name a single despot who was not well-intentioned.

    1. Genghis Khan?

      1. I mean, Genghis took the mongols from grubby nomadic sheep herders to the largest empire the world ever saw. And while he definitely did some terrible stuff, a lot of stories were also embraced and embellished by the mongols as a way to spread fear and get folks to give up without a fight. So, yeah it sucked if you were in his path, but if you were a Mongol he was the second coming of Jesus combined with Alexander the Great and Robo-Napolean.

        1. You’re being a bit pedantic, but even in is path, if you were willing to trade with the guy (and the “Horde”; why hasn’t someone used that for a football team), you didn’t come off too badly.

        2. One minor correction, they were NOT the largest empire the world ever saw. That would be the British Empire. However IIRC the Mongols DID kill the largest number of people as a percentage of the world population, which is pretty damn impressive too! Those sissy Brits may have taken more land and people overall, but they were all nice and civilized about running their empire, and hardly ever committed mass murder… Contrary to typical lefty rantings on the subject.

          PS. I did rather like the Robo-Napoleon bit at the end there, nice touch!

    2. Ivan the Terrible?

    3. I was thinking more along the lines of Walt Disney or Ty Cobb.

    4. Albus Dumbledore?

    5. Merv Griffin was pure evil

      1. And Arthur Treacher was his familiar.

    6. That one Uraguayan dictator was pretty neutrally intentioned if I remember. A very self serving but mild dictator. Apparently he was pretty okay as far as SA dictators go.

      1. Other than shooting a few thousand communists, Pinochet largely meant well. Singapore is a dictatorship and unless you like drugs or chewing gum, it is a very nice place.

        Benevolent dictatorships do happen.

        1. The eagerness with which right wingers rush to brush away Pinochet’s mass murdering is a good illustration of the willingness to toss away principles to score points for one’s tribe.

          1. Pinchet murdered around 10,000 people to save the country from a regime that would have murdered hundreds of thousands if not millions.

            The extent to which leftist like you pretend that Pinchet’s amatur act of a few thousand excutions is in any way close to equivelent to the tens of millions murdered by communist countries and the complete economic disasters they left behind, as opposed to the rich prosperous country Pinchet left, pretty much shows that your “principels” are nothing but a means by which you justify not facing the truth about how bad leftists actually are.

            1. THIS.

              And the thing is, much of that wasn’t even “murder” per se. There’s killing random people who have politics you don’t like… And then there’s prosecuting ACTUAL criminals, and executing them. How many of those people had actually committed violent, illegal acts already? I know SOME were “merely” running communist organizations, but if those orgs were committing terrorist acts… Pretty sure that was enough to get Osama Bin Laden in some trouble, even though he never personally flew planes into buildings…

              So at the end of the day, he might not have hardly killed anybody that was “innocent.” But even if he did, as you say he probably prevented a far greater evil.

              Idiots like Jeff just can’t seem to accept the reality that sometimes the rubber has to meet the road, and unpleasant stuff has to happen. The Founding Fathers were murderous terrorists… And I LOVE them for it. Pinochet transitioned out of power well enough, and didn’t try to murder endless people until the day he died. He pulled a Sulla, not a Caesar… And sometimes nations need a Sulla.

        2. My point was he wasn’t good intentioned. He was more neutral and plainly for himself, but was benign enough that his rule was also benign. Compared to many dictators at least.

          I assumed I was responding to a person taking about how the road to hell being passed with good intentions. And so I was trying to think of a dictator with few claims to benevolence.

          1. It’s an interesting candidate. Well-intentioned choice, if I may say so….

        3. Singapore is not a dictatorship, it is a democratic republic, albeit an authoritarian one. We had a Singaporean student in one of my grad school classes. She told us that they basically vote their freedoms away voluntarily.

    7. Roger Goodell.

  12. “The goal is to keep mom and pop places healthy and alive.”

    Have you eaten at a mom and pop place lately? I see lots of them on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares show, or whatever he calls it now. If you want healthy, eat at a chain restaurant with good hygiene protocols in place.

    1. Like Chipolte.

    2. Please don’t take a television show as evidence of anything other than a television show. There are millions of restaurants in the USA. Most are run middle of the road, a few are exceptional, and a few are shitty, and a couple end up on TV. I suggest you pick up the book Statistics for Dummies.

    3. Yeah… Uhhh, almost every non chain place I have ever gone to is WAY better than chain places that sell the same kind of food. Once in a blue moon I’ll stumble into one that is comparable to a chain place, but that’s rare. Pretty much never come across one that is worse.

      So I don’t know where you live, but they’re clearly doing it wrong…

  13. Folly Beach Island already has a ban on drive-through businesses in place.

    Well, it’s just like Joe Pesci said: they FUCK you at the drive-through!

    1. Plus, they screw up your order.

  14. Folly Beach.
    Look! Truth in politics!

  15. A ban shouldn’t be necessary since the sentiment of the locals to preserve the island’s charm will make it impossible for chain businesses to get any customers in the first place.

    1. But just in case…

    2. It doesn’t work that way. The existence of a small number of corporate places does not have a noticable effect on the atmosphere and the attractiveness to tourists. The people are coming there for the atmosphere. So a few corporate places can do quite well provided there are not enough of them to destroy the atmosphere. The problem is once you go over the tipping point, which is pretty much impossible to tell until you find it, the atmosphere goes away and the tourists and businesses with it.

      1. Destin FL laughs at you and your off the cuff bullshit.

        1. Destin doesn’t sell its atmosphere. It sells its beach. It doesn’t need a quiant atmosphere. This place doesn’t have the same calibre of beach and therefore needs something else.

          God damn you are stupid.

  16. Not Our Class, Darling

  17. Hurricane Hugo blew a boat into Folly in 1989 and the locals used to paint messages on its hull and it became sort of a local tradition.

    Another hurricane blew it away in 2017 and, after much debate and investigation, folks realized that various rules, regulations and legal hurdles made it impossible to move it back — less than a mile.

    We’re screwed …

  18. As so often happens, the economic reasoning falls short of providing enough insight to make it a reliable sole determiner of policy. Nor is there any reason why Econ 10 type arguments ought to supplant local government preferences.

    Even if you just look at it economically, a too-narrow economic interpretation risks getting the economics wrong. There are plenty of resort-type communities across the nation which thrive largely because they are not cookie-cutter duplicates of the standardized commercial ecology we can all find everywhere.

    The argument on behalf of people who prefer lower prices isn’t even reliably valid. If my own community had thought to ban chain eateries before they flooded in, I would have been delighted with that, and would never have minded paying more to a local original. But since the community has already suffered the aesthetic and cultural degradation the chains impose, there is little point in someone?including someone who wishes it never happened?avoiding the lower prices, which are the only compensation. At that point, paying more isn’t going to undo the damage.

    The real argument being offered here is against the notion that collective wisdom ought to be allowed any role in government. It’s an insistence that every policy decision?and especially every economically-related policy decision?be decided on the basis of an atomized, individualistic analysis, without any consideration of collective effects, or collective will. That’s not wise.

  19. Suppose I open a new restaurant in a touristy place like Folly Beach and it does well, and I decide to open another one in Hilton Head, and IT does well and I continue to expand, what happens when I open my 11th property in Fernandina Beach? Do I have to close down my Folly Island place?


    1. Crackers Boy|10.23.18 @ 4:05PM|#
      “Suppose I open a new restaurant in a touristy place like Folly Beach and it does well, and I decide to open another one in Hilton Head, and IT does well and I continue to expand, what happens when I open my 11th property in Fernandina Beach? Do I have to close down my Folly Island place?”

      San Fran’s ‘anti-chain regs’ get tied in knots when a local M&P hits the right buttons and now has a chance to open it’s 9th (or whatever the limit is) outlet!
      The lefty numbskulls who wrote the regs fall all over themselves inventing special dispensation rules, while the owners show up in torn jeans and sandals to prove they really don’t care about profits!

    2. The law was clear “10 or more …. formula businesses” . It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. If you open 11 irish pubs or 11 breastaurants, they’re gonna figure you out.

      1. Read the article before you comment. And you don’t need to close your comments with CB. We can read your name at the top.

    3. I would imagine you might be grandfathered in, like the Subway sounds like it is? If not, I’m sure you could bribe off the local politicians, or change the name on the 11th location! Loop holes FTW!

  20. Folly Island went to hell in a hogcart ever since they banned drinking on the beach. They got tired of being the “fun” beach.

    1. Surprised they didn’t just ban Bud and Coors and Miller, and let people drink artisanal craft beers.

  21. Matha’s Vineyard has a “no-chain” law. Everything on the island now cost 3x-4x more than on the mainland.

    1. McDonald’s, for instance, is far more expensive throughout Massachusetts than any other place I travel. If it were on the Vineyard, the prices would be up accordingly.

      Your estimate of Vineyard price ratios is, of course, ridiculous.

  22. There are mom and pop restaurants on their face that are supplied by Sysco. So just because they are not a franchise, the food is nothing special.

    1. Lots are but a lot also get food from locals as well.

  23. I’m not too worried about Mcdonalds and taco bell’s future….

  24. The town I grew up in had something like this-at the time, other than the gas stations and a Woolworth, there were no chains. Then a local coffee chain moved in that was bought out by Starbucks, and Woolworth went bust and a CVS wanted to move in, and people started shitting their pants that the town was losing its soul. What will Folly Beach do if local business get bought or fail? I’m sure the storefronts won’t stay empty for long no matter how much they virtue signal.

  25. Sounds like one of the better ideas I’ve ever heard.

  26. So, I have some experience on this subject. I used to live on a popular tourist island in Washington. People thought there was a law against chains, but there was not. It was actually a couple random laws that might arguably make it unfavorable for a chain to be there, combined with the population not warranting it. It was under 7,000 back then. There was an Ace hardware franchise, and a Radio Shack, but nothing else.

    Anyway, somebody was thinking about opening a chain store there (I think it was a Subway actually), and they started talking about making an actual ban to stop it. They decided to not open the place anyway, and no law was passed.

    But here’s the thing, most people there would have preferred it to stay like it was. I would probably have preferred it too. I wouldn’t want there to be a LAW… But not wanting lame chain stores is not a horrible thing in and of itself.

    As has been mentioned, places like this exist BECAUSE they’re not some ugly chunk of suburbia, but on an island. If that’s all they were, half the point of going there would be lost.

    Character IS a thing. Deep down inside, everybody appreciates places that are quaint, different, old, quirky, etc… The exact opposite of generic chain stuff. Most people do both from time to time of course, but if you ask almost anybody if they ultimately PREFER their favorite local spot, or some generic chain, the chain will almost never win.

    1. So while I don’t believe in bans on libertarian grounds, you people saying people are idiots for NOT wanting shitty chain burger stores everywhere… Well, that’s YOUR opinion. I would prefer a place with few, but not none, of these types of places around. I wouldn’t want it done by law though.

      I rarely go to big chain food places. I do fast food sometimes to be sure, but chain sit down restaurants? UGH. What kind of a savage goes to such places? Their food is mediocre, and usually not even well priced for the quality. Local stuff is far better, and can often end up cheaper for the quality. Or a lot better for more money.

      Anyway, people aren’t idiots for not liking shitty chain stores. They can ruin places, but that doesn’t mean there should be a law against them either. This actually makes me wonder if any chains are on the island I used to live on now… I could call and ask a friend I guess, but I really don’t care.

      1. Your friend moved away in order to open an Arby’s – – – – – – – –

        1. MAYBE! Fortunately I have more than one friend that still lives there…

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