Tom Germond is executive editor of Tampa Bay Newspapers.
I’m holding in my hand a brochure called “101 things to do in and around Florence County” South Carolina.
The Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau publication says you can get up and personal with a giant boll weevil. You can explore log slave cabins. Grab your cane pole and go fishing in Black Creek. Search for tree frogs.
Yup. Right on the doorstep of 1-95 there’s a different world waiting for you to explore – if you’re up for it.
We weren’t. After eight hours of being a road warrior, I didn’t want to think about giant boll weevils. All I wanted was to take a nice shower and relax over a cold beer and some football at a local restaurant. So did my brother.
What the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau should produce is a brochure called “One thing you have trouble doing in Florence.” Buying a beer at a restaurant on Exit 164 on a Sunday.
The bartender was nice enough. She saw us ogling the beer taps.
“Before you get set on ordering one of those, I must tell you that we can’t sell you alcohol on Sunday,” she said.
Blank faces. So why is she behind the bar?
“Sorry,” she said.
I would be willing to bet all the boll weevils in South Carolina that she’s probably said “sorry” 1,000 times to customers on Sundays.
“Is there anywhere we can go to get a cold beer today?” I asked.
“You can go to the next exit, 160. They have a Buffalo Wild Wings, Outback and all kinds of places that sell alcohol.”
We’re on our way – just as fast as our feet can fly.
We got about four different explanations for disparity in the regulations, and I was admonishing myself for not remembering from a previous trip that South Carolina was the blue law state. Had I known I couldn’t get a beer on a Sunday at Exit 164, I would have made a command decision to high tail it to North Carolina and not book a room at a motel until I saw beer flowing from a restaurant bar tap.
My brother agreed, though I think he could have done without a heaping helping of my sarcasm for the rest of the day.
“Better cut that dog loose, boy” he said.
In other words, get over it.
I sent an email, as I was writing this, to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, about Dry Sunday Exit 164.
“The server at the restaurant/bar may have been confused. Restaurants within the city limits are permitted to sell alcohol on Sundays provided that they purchase either an annual Sunday liquor license or a temporary Sunday liquor license for certain dates,” said Holly Young Beaumier, bureau director. “The server may not have realized that it is his/her manager’s decision as to whether to serve alcohol on Sundays. It is true, though, that most of the restaurants at Exit 160 do opt to purchase the license. I hope you had a nice trip and an enjoyable dinner in Florence!”
The dinner was actually good. However, I would have preferred steak and wine to steak and Pepsi.
I know what you’re thinking: Do you want some cheese with that whine, Germond?
No, but I can’t understand why in the year 2012 it was such an ordeal to get a drink on a Sunday night, especially in a tourist destination. Why do some businesses, government officials and community leaders let archaic principles trump common sense?
My advice to businesses on Dry Sunday Exit 164: Lighten up, and let beer flow freely on Sunday. Think of the good bartenders, waiters and waitresses and others who work hard to eke out a living mostly on tips and are embarrassed to turn away customers or listen to weary travelers’ smarmy remarks.
“Ms., do you think you could sneak me just a little glass of wine to go with this great steak?” I asked.
“I know how you feel sir. The bar’s within feet of where your sitting, and I can’t pour you a drink,” our waitress said.
“Cut that dog loose, boy,” my brother piped up.
I almost got over it while vacationing in the Outer Banks, which was conspicuously devoid of blue laws. Not surprising, since the area celebrates its pirate heritage.
Driving home, I noticed that we were approaching Dry Sunday Exit 164.
“Do you want to stop here and get a bite to eat for old time’s sake?” I asked my brother.
“Cut it loose.”
Rise up, you South Carolina bartenders and servers. Don’t let the purveyors of blue laws continue to hold you down, whoever they are. God help ’em.
Don’t worry about me. I’ll get over this in a couple of months, about the time Christmas comes.
Snug in my bed – while visions of giant boll weevils dance in my head.