Surfside Beach sign

SURFSIDE BEACH — While storms cast a haze over holiday plans in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, families still found their way to the coast, though in smaller numbers than in years past, business owners said.

Some restaurant workers believe the lower tourist numbers were a consequence of the holiday falling on a weekday.

“We were not busy on the Fourth,” said Joanne Tarter, a waitress at Kitty’s Purple Cow Restaurant off of Bluewater Highway. “With the Fourth being in the middle of the week, we were just not as busy as previously.”

Tarter said the restaurant’s traffic picked up during the weekend, but the actual holiday rush was slower.

Staff at the Red Snapper Inn said throughout the week and weekend, they were completely swamped, not having a slowdown some other area businesses experienced.

Nicole Naquin, a waitress at the restaurant, said the venue’s Saturday night crowd kept the staff busy all evening.

Some of the beachfront restaurant workers said the holiday slowdown isn’t all that unusual, especially when people are out barbecuing and enjoying water activities.

“We didn’t get as busy as expected. But people are out doing things with their families,” said Jessica Dickerson, a lead bartender and server at the Seahorse Bar and Grill.

“We usually get a good day rush that day, but then it starts slowing down around dinner when fireworks start,” Dickerson added.

The cloudy day might have been a factor as well, Dickerson said.

Corona Del Mar Properties rental owner and operator Melinda Wilhelm said she received several last-minute phone calls from families wanting to rent a place along the beach for the holiday. Having owned property on the coast for more than a decade, she said there’s always a decent turnout, despite weather concerns.

“It’s definitely the busiest time of the year in Surfside,” she said. “Because it fell on a Thursday, I think so many people still had to work on Friday. But it’s still the busiest day, busiest week out of the year.”

While some concerns about water bacteria levels were raised, most tourists were able to enjoy the beach and water without any worry, Wilhelm said.

“What we did notice was the traffic,” Wilhelm said. “In past years, there has been a line of cars over the bridge all the way to Buc-ee’s and this year, we didn’t see that. So there were definitely less people.”

Courtney Blackann is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0152.

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