We should have known that Cinco de Mayo plus Sunday Funday would equal an alcohol apocalypse for downtown Charleston. We’ve never much liked the holiday, but we suppose it does fill the gap in themed excuses to drink in between St. Patrick’s Day and the Fourth of July. There was an abundance of celebrations going on all weekend in the Lowcountry. If only the Pueblan armies knew they fought so that we may enjoy a bikini contest, cheap beer, and all-you-can-eat beef tacos.
It all started so innocently on Saturday night with the Charleston Cinco de Mayo Festival at the Visitor Center Bus Shed Terminal. This event was billed as the largest celebration of the holiday in South Carolina. We’re not sure about the rest of the state, but it was the biggest venue we visited hosting a Cinco party all weekend. Waiting in line to have our ID checked, we were overwhelmed by the loudness of the party, probably the highest decibels we’ve heard at the shed. A salsa dance demonstration was in progress as onlookers studied the moves and snapped phone pictures. The colors of the Mexican flag were splayed across the space, but adherence to the holiday didn’t go much further than that. Cuban food trucks, Spanish futbol caps, and anything “Hispanic” was thrown into the mix. Walking through the vendors reminded us of a trip to South of the Border — nothing seemed authentic and all was offered with a heaping helping of kitsch. Straw hats, cheap tchotchkes, and girls in belly shirts serving beer lent to the spring-break-at-Señor-Frog’s sensibility of the event. And then came the guy in the Optimus Prime costume. Though the character isn’t exactly Mexican, he was at the party to help the kids bust open the piñata. The tots were jumping up and down with excitement while proud parents were shooting photos. We left before the large-scale Zumba demonstration (not even close to being related to the holiday).
And then it was Sunday. We knew the scene would be bad when we saw brunch pictures segueing to Instagrams of comically oversized margaritas. After false Channing Tatum rumors at Mex 1 and declines of the beef taco buffet at Cha Cha’s Tequila Bar, we decided to check out every Cinco de Mayo celebration the peninsula had to offer. Taco Boy was first on the list. It was raining lightly and the crowds were huddled in a line under umbrellas and giant sombreros. The restaurant boasted a band for the evening, but we think everyone was there for the frozen screwdrivers. The bar was three deep, and guests seemed to be having a good time. A few people waited as servers feverishly dried off tables for dinner service, and the hostesses wrangled the rowdy patrons. The rain didn’t seem to slow anyone down from the party.
From Huger Street, we would quickly watch the decline of any sobriety left in the day’s revelers. The further south we traveled, the higher the BAC’s of anyone attending the events. Our next stop on the tour of tequila was the Alley. Bio Ritmo was playing salsa music that evening but had not started when we showed up. The lanes were packed, but between the outdoor ping-pong table, plastic cups of beer, and that couple making out on the picnic table, it all felt like a big frat party. We traveled on. As we approached Juanita Greenberg’s however, we wished we’d stayed on Columbus street. Drunken multitudes were practically spilling out of the space — there was no way we could have wriggled into the tightly-packed restaurant. We didn’t fare much better at Yo Burrito, our final destination. In the middle of downtown and with cheap happy hour specials, the Mexican grill typically caters to a younger crowd. Now, we’re sure all those sombrero- and poncho-clad partiers were of legal drinking age, but the girl screaming “I have to pee-pee so bad” left us wondering. Upon leaving, we were sure to avoid the crowds of teetering masses and swaying individuals that looked as if they might have regurgitated their tequila at a moment’s notice. To everyone we saw on Sunday, we hope that hangover wasn’t too bad on Monday.