File this editorial under “count your blessings”
No one can argue that Charleston doesn’t face big issues, such as flooding, other effects of climate change, bad roads, an inequitable education system and the need for more affordable housing.
Our issues, however, are vastly different in scale from those faced in our sister city to the South, Savannah. Dubbed the “Hostess City of the South,” Savannah has the same antebellum roots that Charleston has — beautiful architecture and charm dripping in a vibrant downtown filled with history. It’s got indisputably delicious cuisine, like the peach gazpacho and Georgia white shrimp on the menu at the award-winning The Grey restaurant. People flock to Bonaventure Cemetery, drawn in by stories like those in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. But despite Savannah’s muddy river views and jarring cobblestone streets, the city has become kind of worn and trashy.
Walking through Savannah’s commercial streets on a recent blistering day exposed visitors to an alarming number of tourists and drunks drinking cheap beer and frozen drinks from a plethora of somewhat seedy bars.
The whiff of weed filled the air in an area of what should be charming parks. The heat and booze left at least one
partier visibly sick. All the while: Not a police officer was
to be seen. It wouldn’t have taken much for the teeming crowd to turn mean.
Compare that Savannah party atmosphere with Charleston’s outside experience on the following day. It was just as hot and sticky, but crowds on King Street shopped in stores instead of throwing up on the streets. Panhandlers were few and far between. A sense of history and gentility filled the air as a harbor breeze brushed away the cloying humidity.
Yes, Charleston’s different. Perhaps part of the reason is that city fathers here and in North Charleston have ordinances against public consumption of alcohol, thereby stanching the party atmosphere found in Savannah and New Orleans. Sure there are pockets of alcoholic rebellion, such as upper King Street on the weekends. And those annoying bachelorette parties happen here, too. But Charleston’s quieter partying seems relatively tame compared to other places. Let’s hope it stays that way.
So let’s count our lucky stars that Charleston’s leaders worked and keep working to make sure our community offers a welcoming, generally positive experience for visitors. Sure, we can do more — like shying away from more horse-drawn wagons and stemming the rush to develop every square foot of land. But keeping a lid on where alcohol can be consumed certainly is a key to our success.
Whenever you start thinking that Charleston is a mess, you don’t have to travel far to realize how lucky we still have it.
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