Daufuskie Island residents and visitors already have a relatively small menu when it comes to restaurant and bar options, so the last thing locals say they want is for the popular watering hole Marshside Mama’s to close.
But through its ownership of the land beneath the Haig Point Drive bar and grill, Beaufort County has found itself dabbling in the bar business — a business many county leaders want no part of.
A compromise appears to be crystallizing around a proposal that would allow Marshside Mama’s to continue operating while ridding the county of potential liability that could arise out of affiliation with the bar.
County staffers are now exploring the idea of turning over ownership of the portion of county-owned property where the restaurants sits.
The 2010 lease between the county and the Daufuskie Island Cooperative — which oversees the property and subleases the restaurant building to Marshside Mama’s — has expired, and the parties have been operating on a month-to-month agreement for about a year.
Earlier this year, county staff tested the waters to see if they could find a buyer to take over the property.
That effort led to just a single bidder, county deputy administrator Josh Gruber said Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Daufuskie Island Council — a nine-member board that serves as a liaison between Beaufort County government officials and island property owners — came out in opposition to the county selling the property, citing concerns that new ownership could mean the end of Marshside Mama’s.
Earlier this summer, island leaders voted to issue a strongly worded statement directed at county officials calling for the withdrawal of a proposal seeking buyers for the property.
The property “has a long history of use as a public, community space,” the statement said. “The Daufuskie (Island Cooperative) annually provides island-wide contributions including supporting a community Thanksgiving Day, family memorial services, and Daufuskie Day.”
Island leaders may get their wish, as county officials are drafting an agreement that could pave the way for the Daufuskie Island Council to take ownership of Marshside Mama’s for a nominal fee. That draft could be presented to county and island leaders as soon as next month.
“It doesn’t make sense for the county to have the liability of this type of entity,” Gruber said. But an agreement that allows the county to step aside while keeping the bar open could “be a win-win for everyone.”
Beaufort County Councilman Tabor Vaux — whose district includes Daufuskie Island — said, “We want to make sure it continues to be open for public use,” particularly because there are so few restaurants operating on the island.
Daufuskie Island Council chairman Chuck Hunter told county leaders Monday that he was “very satisfied” with the idea of his board taking control of the property.
He stressed the importance of the establishment — both culturally, as well as for entertainment and dining purposes — saying Marshside Mama’s “is a valuable piece of our community.”