Sand Dollar Social Club
Folly Beach. 7 Center St. 588-9498
Three and a half years ago, a man called Doc heard some music coming out of the Sand Dollar Social Club and walked in to see what was happening behind the green door with no window.
Two minutes later he walked out.
In those two minutes he learned that if he wanted to drink a beer at the Sand Dollar, he would have to go through all the formalities of joining a private club. He would have to fill out a membership application, pay a fee, and wait 24 hours for admittance.
So he gave the bartender a dollar in cash (this bar doesn't take cards) and filled out an index card with his name, age, occupation, etc. and came back a day later to flash his purple membership card and sit his happy ass down on a barstool "where the elite meet." He's been sitting there ever since.
When the Sand Dollar opened 31 years ago, bartender Nettie Green says the state had "weird" liquor laws. Public places couldn't sell spirits after midnight during the week, or at all on Sundays. So owner Richard Weatherford decided to make it a private club where he could pretty much call the shots without a lot of legal restraints.
When state liquor legalities were rewritten, Weatherford decided to keep his bar's private club status.
It's Sand Dollar's thing. "We're just so exclusive," jokes Green, one of the four women bartenders who man the bottles and cans in this joint.
Members are allowed to bring guests. If Doc wants to bring friends, he could sign them into the black-and-white speckled composition journal kept by the register. But friends aren't really needed at the Sand Dollar. Doc could come alone and find someone to talk with.
It's a friendly bar. Green says her Sand Dollar is like that Toby Keith song, "I Love This Bar," but without the mason jars.
As Keith's song goes, this bar has its winners, its losers, chain-smokers, and boozers. It's not that far away and it's a come-as-you-are kind of place. And there's never a cover charge in this joint with 75-cent pool tables, 50-cent jukebox tunes, and dart boards. And there's no fighting or arguing in this club.
"If you're disrupting the class, you're going to have to go," Green says. She's invested 17 years of her life behind the bar. Before that she was a weekend regular.
She loves the nights when blues-rock trio Johnny Mac & The BootyRanch set up their gear on the stage by the bathrooms and give the people another reason to raise their glasses.
Sand Dollar is strictly a saloon, if you ask Green.
She serves everyone from doctors and shrimpers to teachers and college kids.
The people make the bar tick. Who needs a kitchen? There are bags of pork rinds, and she says out-of-towners familiar with Folly Beach will stop by the Sand Dollar to renew their membership before checking into their hotel and seeing the beach.
Budweiser cans are only a dollar, always, and good drinks aren't expensive from the full bar.
And this bar has seen a lot of winters. It's been open since 1976, when Folly Beach used to be an untouched paradise. There weren't a lot of buildings. There was no Taco Boy. Like the rest of the Charleston area, Folly Beach has seen a lot of land development and changes.
Certain people and places have disappeared with the waves, but Sand Dollar has stayed true to itself and its cult following.
Come debilitating fire, Hurricane Hugo, a blizzard, and periodic flooding, this bar has weathered it all, and bounced back to partake in some good-hearted debauchery.
"People tell me this is the last stronghold on Folly," Green says. "It hasn't changed."