FOLLY BEACH, S.C. — Sitting in the sun, watching the waves roll in, and popping the top on a cold one would seem to be as much a part of the American summer as hot dogs and cookouts.
But one South Carolina beach recently imposed a temporary ban on booze on its shores, and a nationally known beach expert says there are more shore towns that ban alcohol than permit it. He said the laws are generally passed to prevent rowdy gatherings and everything that goes with them, not to prevent people from walking the sand with wine in a plastic cup.
‘‘If you looked at it, most beaches have a prohibition on drinking, but I think if you looked at it closely, most beaches people are drinking on,’’ said Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University who is known as ‘‘Dr. Beach’’ for his ratings of the nation’s best beaches.
The City Council imposed a 60-day ban after dozens of drunken revelers tangled with law officers in a Fourth of July melee that deputies described as a riot. Five officers were hurt and seven people arrested.
Real estate agent LaJuan Kennedy has spent the past couple of weeks collecting hundreds of signatures so residents can vote on making the ban permanent. Folly was the only beach in the Charleston area where it had been legal to drink on the shore.
‘‘July Fourth was just the straw that broke the camel’s back,’’ Kennedy said. ‘‘This has been building for the last three or four years.’’ She said residents are sick of drunken young people causing problems and leaving trash behind.
Matt Kacenga, manning an outdoor booth for East Coast Surf Rentals on the town’s main drag, called the ban ‘‘a knee-jerk reaction.’’
He said that both Folly Beach and the number of vacationers have grown in recent years and that the city has to figure out how to handle the changes.
‘‘I can’t tell you I’m flat-out against the ban because I do believe things have gotten worse,’’ he said. ‘‘But I think there should be some real adult, pragmatic, civilized discussion as opposed to a heat-of-the-moment solution.’’
Things have been quieter in the past few weeks, but locals say it is unclear if that is because of the alcohol ban or simply because the beach season is winding down.
‘‘I’ve never said that not drinking is a panacea,’’ said Mayor Tim Goodwin. ‘‘But if there is no drinking on the beach, they’re probably not going to be planning a fraternity party there.’’
Leatherman said beach alcohol bans probably don’t hurt the economies of shore towns too much. While convenience stores may sell fewer six packs, towns tend to reinvent themselves and, he said, there are only so many choices for people to go to the beach so visitors tend to keep coming.